Jury trials: tougher sentences and a way to “avoid” life imprisonment

In Mendoza, the first jury trial It was held on March 21, 2019 and, so far, 28 cases have been qualified to reach such an instance. Most of the defendants who followed that path end up being sentenced to life imprisonment. But there are a large number of defendants who choose another alternative: admit guilty, agree to the sentence through abbreviated trials and thus avoid facing a popular jury. This is so because an instance of negotiation between the parties is opened. Is there a new trend in the penal system?

The first defendant to kick off the jury trials was Peteán Pocoví, who was found guilty of the death of two police officers while on the run for stabbing his pregnant girlfriend.

The data you accessed MDZ And what is striking is that of the 28 qualified trials that could have been evaluated by a popular jury, 13 ended in front of the twelve members of the jury and, of these, 9 were sentenced to life imprisonment. Another 2 were imprisoned for a specified period, while there were an acquittal and a watertight jury situation, where the necessary unanimity was not achieved.

On the other hand, of 15 cases brought to an abbreviated trial (which avoided facing the jury), 12 were involved who agreed and obtained prison for a specified time, that is, they avoided the perpetual. Another 3 did receive the maximum penalty.

So, are jury trials a mechanism that imposes harsher penalties? The truth is that statistics show that in these causes there is a tendency for defendants to receive life imprisonment. This situation is avoided through agreements between the parties through an abbreviated trial that allows the negotiation for a specified term of sentence, but admitting guilt.

The analysis

From the Public Prosecutor’s Office they maintain that the statistical success of the jury trial reflects a good performance in the investigations by the Homicide Division. “We have a difference with the rest of the country, which is precisely that aggravated homicides are taken to jury. So they are very iconic figures and strong enough, where there is a lot of evidence. It is not the same to prove a homicide than a band that is dedicated to steal. That is the strength we have through the homicide division. The investigations are almost irrefutable because there is a lot of objective evidence. But it remains that the jury is a meat grinder that moves more through the social than through the judgment“commented the prosecutor Fernando Guzzo.

On how the effectiveness of the prosecution is reflected, Guzzo He noted that “the guys don’t have much to discuss anymore. We have a very good homicide division.” “In Mendoza we have had all the possible verdicts. I am very satisfied that the sampling is of all possible options. If everything were perpetual, we would have to go to the psychiatrist. If not, everything I think I have, I will win. That “It is being sick. So it speaks well of the jury. Another fact is that everything that was sworn and reached the Court, up to now, they have not revoked sentences. And there are already 28 trials,” he added.

What criminal lawyers think

Maximiliano Legrand, lawyer for Nicolás Gil Pereg, who was recently charged with life imprisonment for murdering his mother and aunt in January 2019, spoke with MDZ to refer to the modality of trials by jury.

There, contrary to what was indicated to this newspaper by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, he pointed out that in Mendoza “there is a lack of preparation on the part of citizens to be able to face a jury trial with minimal prior training. “In addition, he added that” the principle of innocence is not part of popular culture. There is a right to be considered innocent until the evidence is gathered to determine guilt. ”

In relation to the influence on the 12 members that make up a popular jury, Legrand considered that there is an important new factor. “I think we are facing a new pressure type which is not only media, but social networks. Sometimes a meme or a TikTok is heavier than many arguments“, he said. In that sense he said that” that may have had a bearing on Gil Pereg’s trial. ”

“The citizens of the jury look at the networks and the media every day. There is a right to reply against a media outlet, but not against a meme or a social network.”

Will the statistics prompt more shortened trials?

On the one hand, Legrand believes that based on the numbers thrown “More will be used because of how things are today”. Along the same lines, he pointed out that “there is a question of knowledge of guarantees and disbelief in them. The person in front of a jury begins by being guilty. People don’t believe that they must be proven not guilty. He thinks they must show that he is innocent. ”

Instead, Guzzo He wielded: “I believe that we cannot do more because we are taking to common judgment only between 5% and 7% of what we are investigating. Almost everything else is resolved by agreement. We are almost the same as an American prosecutor.”

The future ramifications of jury trials

The governor, Rodolfo Suarez, stated in February of this year that it signed a Decree to convene a committee of experts to carry out the analysis and the necessary consultations to evaluate in what types of crimes can be judged by jury. Currently it only applies to crimes related to aggravated homicide. In addition, Alfredo Cornejo recently expressed: “In the medium term, I believe that most serious crimes will be solved through jury trials.”

For his part, the prosecutor Guzzo clarified that “it is a project that is going to be staggered“and that” the first variable is that it is with everything that ends in death. “He also said:” I believe, in my opinion, that what people demand the most is that it be applied in corruption crimes. Besides, it will happen and there is no going back “.

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