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Controversy gathers over jury system

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, June 10
The Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili has stated that the jury trial system failed in Georgia. He also said that the system should be remade in order to meet demands.

The PM’s critical assessment has caused significant controversy. The majority parliament members and ministers supported the vision, while the minority criticized the PM for his evaluations.

The PM’s statement came after the inability of the jury to give a verdict over a notorious murder case in central Tbilisi that claimed the life of 25-year-old Lasha Makharadze.

Now the trial is postponed and other jury will have to bring the case to the end. If they also fail to give a final verdict, the convict will be released.

The family of the late Makharadze are campaigning against the jury system and appeals to the leading officials to keep the convict behind bars as his freedom would be a headache for the law-enforcement bodies.

Vice Speaker of Parliament Manana Kobakhidze states that the introducing of the jury system was former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s solution that aimed at recovering of the court system shortcomings.

“The jury system fails to give guarantees that no one’s rights will be violated, as such system is mainly based on emotions rather than professionalism,” Kobakhidze said.

Minister of Justice Thea Tstulukiani has stated that the jury system has collapsed to become a part of Georgia’s court system.

She stressed that amendments in the system are required, as currently rejecting of the jury trials is impossible.

“The rejection needs the constitutional majority and the Georgian Dream does not have the majority in the legislative body. However, we should introduce such changes that will ensure fair verdicts. If the jury fails to provide justice, a side should have an opportunity to appeal the solution with professional judges. We are working on the amendments and I will introduce them before relevant bodies over the following weeks,” Tsulukiani said.

The opposition party, the United National Movement, believes that the government is trying to discredit the institute and make political PR.

The UNM member Levan Bezhashvili states that the Prosecutor’s Office has failed to provide enough evidence that would have enabled jury members to give a verdict.

Lawyer Lia Mukhashavria suggests that the PM has interfered in the court’s issues when it is not his sphere of influence.

“ The PM’s statement has no justification. The judiciary is a separate system and the representatives of the executive bodies have no right to involve in it,” Mukhashavria said.

The jury trial was first introduced in Georgia in 2011 and it only applies to cases of rape, aggravated murder, as well as cases of murder committed in the “heat of passion”.

Residents from 18 to 70 years old could be a member of the jury. From the beginning, 100 men are selected by chance from the electoral register. Then, those persons, who have no right to be a jury member are excluded and finally 12 jury members and 2 reserves are chosen by the defence and accusatorial sides.