interview with “Democracy”, the judge described the first jury trial experience in the Judicial Department of Junín as "exciting".
The Judge said that possibly two more cases end in a jury trial, one of them for a crime similar to the one tried, and the other for sexual abuse. For now there are no dates set for those trials.
It was developed in the way that it was intended. We had to prepare all the instructions so the jurors could understand what they were supposed to do and how, and I think that was accomplished. After the trial was completed, the jury had to answer some questions; one of the questions was if they would like to serve again if they were called in another occasion for jury duty. And with one exception, the rest answered in the affirmative. I must say it really caught my attention this survey sent by the Ministry of Justice of the Province of Buenos Aires.
We were able to witness how the jury spontaneously, being almost midnight, began to applaud. And we all followed them. It was really exciting. Think of it as a historical fact, it is the first in the Judicial Department. For them and for us it was an important experience”, he assured. Surely it will be improved.
It lasted a long time because it ended close to midnight.
Yes, of course. But you've heard when I asked the jury whether they preferred to split the audience and do it in two days or continue, and they preferred to continue. And it was logical. Most of them were not of Junín, they had arrived very early, and there is little public transport. And going back home and then returning the next day it was even more problematic. But I understand that it's not quite right to extend a journey until midnight. We were all very tired, and think this was the first jury trial.
As a judge, do you believe the verdict reached by the jury was fair?
The case presented by the prosecution was trying to convince the jury that this person wanted to kill the victim. "Attempt of murder." On the other side, the defense tried to prove jurors that the accused acted to defend himself from an unfair attack. But the prosecution, at the end of the trial, asked me to give an instruction to the jury that if they understood that the accused did not intentionally want to pursuit the death of the victim, as a second option they could found him guilty of injuries. And this made the jury's decision easier to opt for a lesser offense.
Do you believe that if the instruction of a lesser offense would not have been given, the jury would have rendered a guilty verdict on attempt of murder?
You were there during the whole trial. Let me ask you that same question. What do you believe?
I believe that they would have rendered a not guilty verdict. And between the two extreme possibilities they would have said “not guilty”. But I insist on my question, as a Judge, what would you have done?
I believe that the jury was fair.
How it is understood that after a guilty verdict, Gimenez recovers his freedom?
The thing is that he came to trial with house arrest based on a more serious offense, for more than one year. First he was detained in Prison No. 49, and then the supervising judge granted him the house arrest. But if from the beginning he would have been charge with this lesser offense, as the jury understood having no records, he would have never been arrested, nor would have gone to a jury trial. And he would have also been eligible for a Conditional Suspension of the trial, without a single day of imprisonment.
What is your personal opinion about the performance of the prosecutor (Silvia Ermacora) and the defender (Gerardo Doyle)?
I told them. For me, both were excellent, they performed naturally and were very clear to state their case. Also, they're excellent professionals;, I think they could not have been better.
We worked hand by hand with the prosecutor and the defense, particularly in the instructions that were given to the jury.
Do you think that now the prosecutors and defense lawyers should use other resources to convince the jury?
The thing is that the jury is going to be convinced by the evidence presented in the case. That is the evidence they have to support their claims. Lack of evidence will mean not convincing the jury, and doubt benefits the accused.
While it is true that the judge is in charge of leading the process, in your opinion: Do you think that parties should be more flexible about technical objections to streamline the debate?
About the objections made by the parties, in all oral debates is very common to have questions, ways of questioning, and so being objected. But in the case of jury trials, we must be very careful. I´m a professional judge, they are not, and parties should not predispose them wrong.
Which cases are supposed to be tried under this new system?
The law stipulates that it is for all crimes with penalties of more than fifteen years of imprisonment. But the accused with the advice of his counsel can waive this right and ask for a bench trial.
And in practice, what is happening?
In almost all cases they choose to be tried by professional judges. Not jurors.
And why is that?
It is because the defender analyzes the case, and certainly if he believes that a group of citizens -twelve- will be moved by the case, or will understand or justify the actions of the defendant, most likely he will choose this option. I do not think they would choose to go to trial by jury in a case of armed robbery. As I said, it is a decision for the defense. Not for the prosecutor, that is why I do not think that we will see a lot of jury trials, as the defense attorney will study the case very hard before deciding to take the case before a jury”, he emphasized.