miércoles, 13 de abril de 2016

April Jury Trials: Homicide Guilty Verdict in Lomas

Jury announcing the verdict
The month of April, in which we expect no less than seven jury trials in the territory of the Buenos Aires province, started yesterday in Lomas de Zamora with a murder conviction. 

In the case, the jury rejected the claim of self-defense proposed by the defense attorney and convicted the accused of simple homicide committed with a firearm.

The trial included the following distinctive feature: the trial judge, Dr. Marcelo Dellature, authorized the Institute of Comparative Studies in Criminal and Social Sciences (INECIP) to test, with the juries that took part in the case, the questionnaire that will be used with juries and other judicial actors in the province of Neuquén.

The Superior Tribunal of Justice of Neuquén, INECIP, and Professor Valerie Hans (University of Cornell, New York, U.S.A.) will lead the first large-scale empirical investigation on juries in South America. It is a venture that aligns Argentina with the best scientific and academic tradition worldwide in the field of jury trials.

After months of hard work by lawyers, sociologist, and political scientists from Argentina and the United States, the questionnaires and surveys are finally complete. And the judge, Dellature, kindly authorized their testing after the trial.

Observers from INECIP that observed the trial in Lomas, highlighted the judge’s direction of the trial and the way in which he imparted the instructions.

At the end of the trial, they conducted a brief interview of the judge, which is transcribed below:

J. Dellature
1) How did you feel presiding over a jury trial for the first time in your life?
Actually I felt very good leading the jury, very comfortable. I got an exemplar jury and the parties performed very well during the trial, making it quite manageable.

2) Was it a challenge for you? Why?
It was a challenge because I have been a judge for years and this is the first time that I was not the one responsible for deciding whether a person is guilty or not guilty, as it was decided by others. I agree with the decision that the jury made.

3) What do you think of the attitude and the performance of the jury? Is the verdict the same you would have rendered?  
The jury did very well. I think their performance was very good (even not being able to appreciate it completely as they deliberated behind closed doors). But regarding the voir dire and their behavior during the recesses, it was extremely appropriate.  I agree with the verdict.

5) Do you view citizen participation in the justice system positively? What can citizens contribute to criminal trials?
It is a matter in which I still do not have a fully formed opinion.  It is a challenge because sometimes it is difficult to convey legal issues to a citizen that is not acquainted with them. 

6)  What differences do you notice between a jury trial and a regular trial before a judge?
I see the differences from my perspective, as the presentation of the evidence is the same. But I do think that this procedure will lead the parties to agree on certain evidentiary matters (which they should always do, but this does not always happen). Being in front of a jury that is not acquainted with legal issues obliges them to simplify everything as much as possible. I think the parties are well aware of that, and that makes them reach agreements that simplify those issues.