In an historic first for Georgia, 12 men and women recently passed judgment in the country’s first jury trial, a grisly murder case. But the answer to whether or not jury trials will enhance the credibility of the country’s justice system remains to be seen.
The trial, held in the Tbilisi City Court, tried former policeman Revaz Demetrashvili for allegedly assisting the 1994 gang murder of three members of an ethnic Armenian family in the Georgian capital.
The case, though, has grown beyond the tragedy of one Tbilisi family, and come to be seen as a test of whether ordinary Georgians are ready to sit in dispassionate judgment of their peers. It was the first case to meet the criteria for a jury trial, as introduced in 2010.
Jam-packed with onlookers and journalists, the courtroom on November 17 was hushed in anticipation as the jurors walked in to announce a verdict of guilty. Demetrashvili now faces 14 years in prison. He maintains his innocence.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi. He is a frequent contributor to EurasiaNet's Tamada Tales blog.