July 01, 2004

Runaway Juries

Jury trials have come under the intense scrutiny in Russia recently for making controversial decisions in prominent cases. 

In late April, a jury trial acquitted four officers who had been charged with murdering six civilians in Chechnya in January 2002 (the so-called “Ulman’s case”), saying their actions had not violated military regulations. A military court confirmed the acquittal. 

The facts in the case were never disputed: The officers, headed by captain Eduard Ulman, opened fire on a truck that failed to obey their order to stop. Six people were in the truck. First one person was killed and two were wounded, then, when the officers realized that the truck was carrying civilians, they tried to provide first aid to the wounded. Then, according to the prosecution, the officers contacted their superiors by radio and were told to kill the survivors and cover up the traces. 

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