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Jury system to be piloted in Tbilisi court

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, September 21
From October 1st, 2010, the institution of Jury will begin to operate in Georgia. The pilot program will be implemented in the Tbilisi city court at first, statement concerning the issue was made by the deputy head of Supreme Court of Georgia, Zaza Meishvili and Deputy Minister of Justice, Giorgi Vashadze, on September 20.

“At the beginning the jury will operate in the Tbilisi city court and will rule on the deliberate murders committed in grave conditions. At the present moment this is a pilot program. In two years, Tbilisi city court will become a court with a jury in the East Georgia and Kutaisi city court will fulfill the same functions in the West of Georgia,” Meishvili stated.

Who has the right to be the member of the jury and what functions will be fulfilled by the institution, were subjects explained by Vashadze, “At the present moment, all Tbilisi residents from 18 to 70 years old could be a member of the jury. From the beginning, 100 men will be selected by chance from the electoral register. Then, those persons, who have no right to be a jury member will be excluded and finally 12 jury members and 2 reserves will be chosen by the defence and accusatorial sides. The institute will make the court extremely impartial, as the decisions will be made by twelve persons, rather than one,” Vashadze stated.

As it has been mentioned, any member of the Jury must not be a politician, officer of the law enforcement structures, lawyer, physiologist, psychiatrist or religious figure. If the selected person refuses to be a member of the Jury without proper argumentation, he will have to pay a fine of GEL 1000-1500. Any citizen, who has already been a Jury member, can decline participation in the process until the following year. The judge, during these proceedings, will serve only a guiding function. The final decision is made by the jury. The terms of the imprisonment will also be set by the Jury, providing that the defence and accusatorial sides agree with the sentence. Otherwise, the judge will decide the terms. The Jury is not obliged to prove its decision. Everyday expenses of the Jury members and the missed days at work would be recompensed by the state.

This is yet another PR stunt from the authorities, which will not lead to any positive outcome- Manana Nachkebia, member of Oppositional New Rights told the Messenger, “We are set in our negative attitude regarding the issue, even when we were in the Parliament. The authorities are trying to show the people that this system is profitable and will make the court impartial. However, the whole world has already seen that it is a useless system. The system is especially useless for a small country, such as Georgia, “Nachkebia stated.

As analyst, Nika Chitadze stated for the Messenger, “Everything has its pros and cons. The fact that ordinary citizens will be involved in the process, and the fact that the decision will be made by several persons and not only one, is acceptable. However, these people will have no judicial knowledge and experience, which will reduce their effectiveness. So, I think that lawyers and more experienced people in this field should be involved in the process more than those who have no expertise in this field. Herewith, I suppose that all decisions of the Court should be proved. The fact that the jury’s verdict would not need argumentation will be negatively reflected in society’s trust towards the Court, “Chitadze stated.

According to Doctor of Justice, Mindia Ugrekhelidze, “Those countries which have firstly adopted the system, meaning the UK and the United States of America, have proved Juries to be useless long ago. However, as it has become an inherent part of their legal system, they can not deny it. Pragmatic German and Portugal will never establish that institution in their legal system. With this step, our Authorities try to persuade the international community, one more time, that it is developing democracy in the country and people's involvement in the process. However democracy is not only the only ingredient required for the formation of an impartial court, “Ugrekhelidze stated.