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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2576 2007-10-15 05:58 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #2576/01 2880558
R 150558Z OCT 07

E.O.  12958: N/A 
1. Summary: For the first time since the 1920's, jury trials will 
return to Georgia.  On October 6, 2007, prosecutors from the Office 
of Public Prosecution (OPP) and ABA/ROLI-trained defense lawyers 
conducted mock jury trials before juries composed of Georgian law 
students.  Attorneys questioned the jurors and exercised motions 
using various new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provisions to 
exclude evidence while trying a bank robbery case to conclusion, 
including obtaining jury verdicts.  The new CPC - - which is 
expected to undergo and pass its all-important second reading this 
month - - introduces jury trials, as a pilot project, for the crime 
of first degree murder committed in Tbilisi, Georgia.  To assist 
Georgia with this monumental shift from a Soviet-style inquisitorial 
system that makes no provision for jury trials to an in-court 
adversarial system in which citizen jurors are charged with deciding 
guilt or innocence in serious criminal cases, the U.S. Department of 
Justice's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance 
and Training (DOJ/OPDAT) and the Government of Georgia (GOG) 
conducted a series of roundtables and trial skills seminars to teach 
the prosecutors how to conduct jury trials.  On October 6, armed 
with the new CPC's chapter on jury trials, including draft jury 
instructions, and their newly-acquired trial advocacy skills, 
Georgian attorneys and jurors braved the new world of jury trials. 
End Summary. 
Something is Rotten in the State of Georgia 
2. During Georgia's short-lived independence between 1918 and 1921, 
jury trials allowed citizens to actively participate in determining 
a fellow citizen's guilt or innocence.  However, when the Soviets 
occupied Georgia in 1921, they abolished jury trials.  Effectively, 
this eliminated the public's active participation in the criminal 
procedure process.  Regular citizens no longer judged fellow 
citizens based on the evidence presented in court.  Instead, judges 
rendered decisions based on evidence law enforcement officials and 
prosecutors gathered from witnesses in offices outside the public's 
view and evidence presented in court.  This process afforded the 
public little to no opportunity to view the witnesses while they 
provided the facts, observe the inquisitorial process, or analyze 
the complete dossier. At most, the public passively sat in the 
courtroom while the court conducted the trial and rendered its 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
Good Night, Good Night!  Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
3.  After nearly 100 years, Georgia bids adieu to the inquisitorial 
system and will revive jury trials.  Initially, the CPC will afford 
defendants charged with committing first degree murder in Tbilisi 
with the right to be judged by their peers.  This means that average 
Georgian citizens will no longer play a passive role in the 
distribution of justice.  Instead, Georgian citizens will, quite 
literally, have in their own hands, the power to convict or acquit a 
4.  The new CPC will shift the prosecution's focus from the dossier 
gathering process favored in the Soviet-style inquisitorial system 
to an in-court adversarial system in which the finder of fact, 
whether it is a jury or judge, evaluates witness testimony and other 
evidence presented and examined before them in court.  Shifting the 
focus away from the pre-trial process to the in-court adversarial 
trial opens the criminal justice process to the public and gives the 
public an ability to see the wheels of justice firsthand. Further, 
giving Georgian citizens a direct and active role in the criminal 
justice system via their participation as jurors permits the public 
to hold the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense counsel 
accountable for their actions.  As jurors, the public will determine 
which witnesses and other pieces of evidence to believe and decide 
which arguments are persuasive.  Moreover, as jurors, the public 
will no longer be limited to protesting perceived miscarriages of 
justice after the fact.  Instead, they have the authority to acquit 
a defendant if they believe that the government unfairly charged him 
or failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (or, as it is 
known in Georgia "body of doubtless evidence").  Opening the 
criminal justice system up to the public and including them in the 
resolution of criminal disputes in jury trials will only serve to 
increase the Georgian public's faith in the Rule of Law because the 
public will now, as jurors, be an important part of the 
decision-making process.  As stakeholders in the justice process, 
Georgian citizens will hold the power to curb injustice and ensure 
fairness and objectivity in criminal proceedings through their 
participation in the criminal trial.  In fact, Georgian Chief 
Justice Konstantine Kublashvili has highligh
ted jury trials as one 
of the most significant tools available to increase the public's 
trust in the judiciary. 
TBILISI 00002576  002 OF 004 
We Are Such Stuff . . . As Dreams Are Made On 
5.  In support of the new jury trial concept, OPDAT and the GOG 
engaged in a series of ad hoc meetings conducted by the Georgian 
Parliament's Legal Committee that culminated in a CPC Summit in May 
which helped the Georgians focus on the jury implementation issues 
that needed to be addressed in the CPC and other Georgian 
legislation.  Summit participants investigated how other countries, 
which had successfully adopted in-court adversarial systems, 
implemented jury trials.  Georgian officials, including the Legal 
Committee Chairman and Deputy Chairman, other Members of Parliament, 
Georgia's Prosecutor General, NGOs interested in criminal procedure 
reform, probed the foreign experts, including US experts RLA Roger 
Keller and ABA/ROLI Criminal Law Liaison Matthew Reger, as well as 
UK Law Professor and comparative criminal procedure law expert 
Richard Vogler (Sussex University, U.K.), to better understand how 
other countries resolve issues encountered in such a historic shift. 
6.  Georgian decision-makers, with assistance from these foreign 
experts, discussed a variety of ways to include the public, through 
jury trials, in the criminal justice process.  For example, they 
considered the jury's role in evaluating live, in-court testimony. 
Would the jury be allowed to directly ask questions or would they be 
required to ask their questions through the judge?  They considered 
permitting jury trials only for those cases in which life 
imprisonment was the potential punishment.  Many countries 
introducing a jury trial system have initially limited jury trials 
to cases in which the potential punishment is life in prison. 
However, the Georgians found this approach unworkable because more 
than 500 currently pending cases involve this potential punishment. 
The Georgians expressed concern that this would be too many cases 
for an effective pilot project aimed at ironing out implementation 
kinks before expanding the juror system to cover other crimes and to 
the rest of Georgia. Alternatively, they suggested jury trials for 
fraud cases.  Significantly fewer fraud cases than murder cases are 
pending in Georgia.  However, they ultimately rejected this proposal 
as well because they considered fraud cases to be too complicated 
for a jury to understand.  The Georgians also considered 
implementing a jury pilot project.  A jury would be convened in some 
regions, but not others.  This would reduce the number of cases in 
which a jury trial could be permitted.  However, the Georgians 
expressed Constitutional concerns with this proposal because it 
would, in a discriminatory fashion, provide jury trials for 
individuals based solely on their location.  Ultimately, the 
Georgian decision-makers could not agree on an exact mechanism for 
implementing jury trials.  Nevertheless, the Summit participants 
resolved that the CPC would revive jury trials in Georgia. 
7.  The Georgians finally resolved the jury trial issue in a series 
of ad hoc meetings held throughout the summer.  They determined to 
provide defendants charged with first degree murder committed in 
Tbilisi the right to a jury trial.  This compromise addressed many 
of the issues raised at the CPC Summit.  First, it will not 
overburden the nascent jury trial system because a minimum number of 
these crimes have been committed.  For example, less than 30 first 
degree murder cases are currently docketed in the Tbilisi City 
Court.  However, there are a sufficient number of first degree 
murder charges to allow a large number of citizens to participate as 
jurors.  Second, first degree murder is relatively straight forward 
and does not unnecessarily complicate a juror's new duties.  Jurors 
will need to simply listen to and evaluate the credibility of the 
evidence and decide whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. 
Crimes, such as fraud, were not included because the drafters felt 
that it would be too difficult, initially, for the jurors to grasp 
the nuances associated with a fraud case in addition to handling 
their new juror duties.  Finally, the Georgian experts determined 
that limiting jury trials to Tbilisi does not present Constitutional 
concerns.  Although the Georgian Constitution provides a defendant 
with the right to a trial, it does not guarantee him the right to a 
trial by jury. 
All the World's a Stage, And All 
the Men and Women Merely Players 
8. The GOG, OPDAT, and ABA/ROLI quickly recognized that the adoption 
of a new jury trial provision without practical skills training for 
current practitioners would render this new legislation meaningless 
and, worse, serve to increase public doubt in or opposition to this 
new, democratic concept.  OPDAT and ABA/ROLI, individually, trained 
more than 600 prosecutors and 204 defense lawyers from throughout 
Georgia how to adapt their newly learned in-court adversarial skills 
to jury trials.  During the OPDAT-sponsored seminar in October, 
prosecutors learned that every person is not necessarily an 
appropriate juror for every case.  Individual bias, strongly held 
TBILISI 00002576  003 OF 004 
beliefs or opinions, or a general world outlook might disqualify a 
person from sitting as a juror in a particular case if it prevents 
him or her from being objective.  The prosecutors learned how to 
adapt their previously learned trial advocacy skills to jury 
selection or, in legal parlance, voir dire.  For example, they 
learned how to use open ended, non-leading questions - - such as 
"how do you feel" or "what do you think" - - to invite jurors to 
openly and honestly discuss beliefs and opinions that might render 
them unable to fairly listen to the facts and decide the case based 
on its merits.  Additionally, the prosecutors learned how to use 
their cross-examination skills to disqualify jurors "for cause." 
For example, a potential juror might admit that he holds specific 
beliefs that he could not disregard regardless of how the judge 
instructs.  This provides the prosecutors with the basis to strike a 
potential juror for cause.  Finally, prosecutors also learned the 
ground rules for exercising peremptory strikes.  Peremptory strikes 
allow prosecutors to strike a potential juror for any reason, except 
for illegal reasons (i.e., race and gender) listed in the CPC.  The 
prosecutors learned these "illegal" justifications and also how to 
strategically use their peremptory strikes.  For example, they 
learned that the CPC envisions only seating the first 14 juror 
candidates.  This means that the prosecutors should focus their 
strikes on potential jurors, and not those who will not potentially 
be included in the jury. 
9. Prior to the moot jury trials, 30 prosecutors divided into
groups of 15 and practiced their newly found voir dire skills. 
While a prosecutor practiced her voir dire skills, other prosecutors 
pretended to be ordinary citizens with the usual life experiences. 
For example, one potential juror explained that he did not trust the 
police because they treated his brother unfairly in a previous case. 
 Another one disagreed, stating that the police helped his sister in 
a traumatic case.  Likewise, the juror candidates explained why they 
trusted or distrusted cooperating witnesses.  One juror mentioned 
that a cooperating witness will simply lie to get a better deal from 
the government while another juror said that cooperating witnesses 
should be trusted because they do not want to be the only person to 
go to jail when a group of people committed the crime.  In short, 
the voir dire practice forced the prosecutors to deal with responses 
typically given during the voir dire process in countries with a 
jury trial system. 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Come, Let's Away to Prison; We Two Alone Will Sing 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
10. On October 6, the prosecutors and the ABA/ROLI trained defense 
lawyers tested the trial provisions in mock jury trials.  Juries, 
consisting of 7 law students, listened to 7 jury trials about a bank 
robbery.  For the most part, the juries and the judges believed that 
the prosecutors were more prepared and technically better in 
presenting their cases.  However, 6 of the 7 juries acquitted the 
defendant.  The jurors believed that the government provided 
insufficient evidence to convict the defendants (in part, a function 
of the time limits imposed on the parties).  For example, the jurors 
wanted to see the bank robbery video to judge the defendant's 
actions for themselves.  Additionally, they wanted to hear from the 
victims in the bank as to what they felt and believed during the 
bank robbery.  These are all criticisms that Georgian citizens 
currently level against the government in cases tried under the 
current Soviet-style system.  In this instance, however, rather than 
simply protesting the absence of incriminating evidence, the 
citizen-jurors took charge and acquitted the defendant.  This 
demonstrated to the prosecution in a very compelling and concrete 
manner, the need to publicly produce all incriminating evidence. 
This is not required in the current system in which the government 
does not produce evidence publicly but simply submits it to the 
court for its consideration. 
11. The composition of the juries was also significant.  In the 6 
cases in which the law students acquitted the defendant, they 
admitted that they analyzed the evidence as lawyers rather than as 
lay persons.  By contrast, in the single case in which the defendant 
was convicted, the jurors admitted that they purposely avoided using 
their legal training to analyze the evidence.  The CPC prohibits 
lawyers from participating as jurors in a trial.  Some of the law 
student jurors argued that this is unfair because their legal 
training would assist a jury in resolving a dispute.  Other 
participants agreed that excluding lawyers was appropriate because 
jurors might erroneously follow the lawyers simply because they had 
legal training, not because they listened to the testimony or 
followed the judge's instructions better.  Most importantly, for the 
prosecutors, a jury composed of law students taught them the 
importance of perfecting their voir dire skills.  In addition to 
presenting a better technical case, the prosecutors learned that 
sometimes the wrong jury composition results in an acquittal.  They 
will perfect these skills, but it will take time and practice - - 
just as it does for all lawyers trying jury cases everywhere. 
TBILISI 00002576  004 OF 004 
12. Comment:  Reviving jury trials in Georgia after nearly 100 years 
will increase public participation in the criminal justice process 
and thereby significantly augment not only transparency within the 
justice sector but also the accountability of Georgian legal and law 
enforcement professionals. As criminal justice participants, 
Georgian jurors will have the power to protect fellow citizens from 
governmental abuses of power rather than simply protesting them 
after the fact.  Empowering members of the public to protect fellow 
citizens should, in turn, significantly enhance Georgians' faith in 
the Rule of Law and democracy because now - - as jurors - - they 
will be able to safeguard the law's application.  Indeed, the law 
student jurors immediately recognized this important fact.  After 
the mock jury trial, they commented that the jury trial system will 
tangibly reinforce within Georgian society the belief that the 
judicial system is not biased and that citizens receive fair trials. 
 End Comment. 


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