AVISO (12/03/23):
Debido a la gran cantidad de juicios por jurados llevados a cabo en una decena de provincias de Argentina, la AAJJ dejará de publicar crónicas individuales por cada juicio y comenzará a publicar resúmenes mensuales

lunes, 18 de diciembre de 2023

ARGENTINA: The Superior Court of Justice of Chaco affirmed that the acquittal verdict is unappealable and that "the jury came to transform our justice system"


Justices Víctor del Río and Emilia Valle.

The Superior Court of Justice of Chaco, Argentina, reaffirmed that the jury's not guilty verdict is final, definitive, and not appealable, and that neither the prosecutor nor the complainant can subject the defendant to a new trial.

This was done after brilliantly rejecting the claim filed by the complainant regarding the unanimous acquittal of four defendants for a crime that had not been proven. It is another milestone in Argentine jurisprudence, which is steadily embracing and protecting the essential characteristics of the jury system.

The ruling was written by judges Emilia Valle and Víctor del Río and further develops the argument of the finality of the jury’s acquittal verdict, initiated by the Court of Cassation and Supreme Court of the Province of Buenos Aires  (see the Bray paredes ruling) (see the SCJPBA´s ruling on Bray paredes) (see the López ruling) and the recent (Cervín ruling Entre Ríos).

Even the judges of the 1985 Trial of the Military Juntas have recently emphasized the res judicata nature jury acquittal verdicts  (ver).



Just as Professor Alberto Binder had predicted years ago, "...with the advent of the jury, our entire constitutional criminal trial system adjusts, like a kaleidoscope that finally found its form...".

This is explicitly stated in the text of this ruling, which will influence all Argentine jurisprudence: "Trial by jury has come to transform the judicial system in the Province of Chaco and will legitimize the actions of judges and officials in criminal justice."

Chaco holds an undisputed place of honor in the republican, democratic, and federal tradition of Argentina. Since the significant expansion of the classic jury system in criminal matters that took place in the country from 2011 onwards, Chaco is currently the only province proudly and boldly showcasing jury trials in criminal, civil, and commercial matters  (see) (see). It also has an indigenous jury, and gender-parity in its juries.

This achievement is the result of a Government policy initiated in 2013, which was maintained despite changes in administrations. The province has already conducted 55 trials, earning unprecedented international recognition and garnering publications in prestigious universities worldwide (NYU The Dawn of the civil jury in argentina).

There is no doubt that in a short time, the entirety of Argentine territory will have fulfilled the triple mandate in favor of jury trials outlined by the Founding Fathers who drafted the Constitution of 1853.

This distinguished precedent set by the Superior Court of Justice of Chaco is one of the most important in its history, as it wholeheartedly embraces the new cultural paradigm brought by jury trials.

We say "new" because it has been recently being implemented, but it has been mandated for 170 years by the Constitution and has never been fully enforced

One of the eloquent passages of this ruling explicitly states

"Finally, the jury trial is the best institutional remedy to completely and definitively eradicate the legal tradition of the colonial Spanish Inquisition in terms of justice – a written procedure, secret, episodic system, by minutes, non-adversarial, without publicity, and without citizen participation."

Fortunately, the days of medieval darkness are coming to an end in Argentina. As a crowning achievement, the transformations in criminal justice envisioned by our Framers are now fully emerging: that the trial should be by jury, oral and public; that the trial should be held only once (single hearing); that it is forbidden to give the accused a new trial after his acquittal (non bis in idem or double jeopardy); that the verdict must be unanimous; that the verdict of not guilty is not subject to appeal and that neither the prosecutor nor the complainant can appeal the acquittal.

All these fundamental features of jury trials have received significant endorsement from the Chaco´s Superior Court of Justice.

The Jury Trials Court at Impenetrable chaqueño.

Highlighted passages from the ruling:

"Our provincial legislation on jury trials is clear: acquittal in a criminal case gives the jury the final word."

"The verdict of acquittal is final, and cannot be reviewed, on error or otherwise, without putting [the defendant] twice in jeopardy, and thereby violating the constitution" See United States v. Ball (1896).

"This solution, far from being arbitrary, has its roots in the centrality of the public trial - essential to this system - and in the jury's ability to represent the standards of the community to which the person on trial belongs."

"Double jeopardy demands that once the jury solemnly finds a person to be not guilty, they are forever protected from the state’s punitive power, stopping any subsequent prosecution by allowing an appeal against the acquittal."

"Disallowing the possibility for the prosecution or the complainant to appeal a not guilty verdict does not constitute a denial of access to justice and effective judicial protection. These rights are constitutionally and conventionally recognized for the victim. Instead, it is linked to the nature of trial by jury, which includes the finality of the verdict."

"For historical, political, and constitutional reasons, the classic jury trial model that Western culture created with the Greeks, Romans, Normans, and Germans of the Ancient Era and the Anglo-Saxon common law legal culture does not tolerate a new trial after an acquittal."

"The fact-finding task takes place only once, during a definitive trial that puts an end to the dispute."

"There is no possible appeal by the prosecutor or complainant against the not guilty verdict rendered by the jury, and no exceptions are allowed for any kind of crime."

"A person acquitted after the jury’s verdict cannot be subjected to another risk of conviction (no retrial or double jeopardy)."

"It is perhaps the most sacred characteristic of jury trials, zealously preserved by all jury laws in the country, without which trial by citizens makes no sense."

"The finality of jury verdicts is one of the most important features of common law and only allows the right to appeal exclusively for the convicted person, as stated by the ACHR in Article 8.2.h. and by the ICCPR in Article 14.5 (Article 75, Section 22, of Argentina’s National Constitution)."

"The history of this fundamental individual guarantee of the Rule of Law to ban any appeal for the prosecution is rooted in the cultural legacy of centuries of jury trials."

"But not only would the guarantee against double jeopardy (Articles 8.4 ACHR and 14.7 ICCPR) be seriously compromised if an appeal by the prosecutor against a not guilty jury verdict is allowed, but also the guarantee of speedy trials, legal certainty, and the principle of preclusion and progressiveness recognized by our National Supreme Court of Justice in the Mattei ruling (272:188), which cited the leading case on double jeopardy, Green v. United States (1957)."

"The jury trial revolutionized the prosecution system in the Province of Chaco, not only in its implementation, but also in the consensus and broad receptivity among Chaco´s citizens."

"The jury is a new bridge of communication between a society and its justice system, where those who experience the jury trial understand the evidentiary challenges of any fact finder, the need to overcome the standard of beyond any reasonable doubt, and the ability to render a verdict of guilt or acquittal when the evidence does not convince them."

"This right granted to the citizenry is solidified as a new form of social responsibility, impacting the lives of the people of Chaco, demonstrated by the high level of commitment, participation, and social trust it has generated."

Superior Tribunal de Justicia de Chaco  "RODRÍGUEZ, CARLOS ALBERTO S/ OMISIÓN DE EVITAR TORTURAS – CHAMORRO, CRISTIAN ALFREDO; ROMERO, DARÍO SEBASTIÁN S/ TORTURA SEGUIDA DE MUERTE" , Expte. N° 3215/2019-1 del 18/12/23 [descargar fallo aquí].