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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, November 3, 2005

Russia: Empty Acquittals and Rampant Double Jeopardy

Twelve years ago, the Russian legal system began using juries as part of an effort to move away from the former Soviet legal system of the 1990s.  But, in practice, juries' decisions rarely stand, leaving the Russian trial by jury an empty check on the State.  Russian law does not prohibit double jeopardy, and prosecutors (as well as defendants) can appeal verdicts.  Jury acquittals are almost always appealed. 

According to Russian court statistics and analyses by Russian legal scholars, "In the past five years, between 25 percent and 50 percent of not-guilty verdicts returned by juries were reversed by the country's Supreme Court."

Although the Supreme Court's power to overturn jury verdicts is supposedly curtailed to a limited number of reasons, the Court has broadly interpreted its power.  For example, Vladislav Kozachenko, who was recently acquitted by a jury for the third time for a double murder, had his first jury acquittal overturned because the judge "failed to officially notify a relative of one of the victims of his right to make a final statement to the jury."  Although he has been acquitted by two separate juries since his initial acquittal, the State plans to appeal this third acquittal as well.  In fact, the State plans to continue trying Kozachenko until a jury renders a guilty verdict.  Story from washingtonpost.com... [Mark Godsey]

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