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Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Russia - Review Of Judgments

court courts acquittals supreme

The defendant, the procurator, and the victim may appeal judgments at each level of the court structure. The appellate courts are empowered to review questions of fact as well as law. If the accused appeals, the appellate court may not find the defendant guilty of a more serious offense or impose a more severe punishment. The procurator or the victim may appeal, however, and seek to have the judgment overturned, and a more severe punishment may be imposed upon retrial. Unlike in the United States the procurator or the victim may appeal an acquittal. (This is also allowed in many continental European countries.)

The procuracy is quick to appeal nearly every acquittal and the Supreme Court is just as quick to reverse them. In 1997, for instance, the Supreme Court reversed 33.1 percent of all acquittals and only 2.5 percent of guilty verdicts. The Cassational Panel of the Supreme Court, responsible for hearing appeals of jury cases, over-turned 66 percent of all jury acquittals in 1998. In a few jury cases persons have been acquitted two or three times, only to have their acquittals reversed and new trials ordered by the Supreme Court. Grounds for reversals of jury acquittals have been faulty preparation of the question list, defense testimony relating to unlawful methods used by the police to obtain confessions, and erroneous exclusion of incriminating evidence (i.e., a confession), thus depriving the state of the right to a fair trial. Although many of the acquittals were for atrocious murders, the Supreme Court seems to be reversing acquittals as an obedient warrior in the battle against crime, not as an impartial institution of the rule of law as it was supposed to become as a result of the democratic reforms.

The appellate courts may also reverse a lower court judgment on grounds not pleaded by the parties. Finally, final judgments may still be subject to "review" (nadzor). Pursuant to this procedure, higher courts may, on their own initiative or upon petition of the procurator (but not the defense), review final judgments of lower courts, and court presidiums may review decisions of their own panels and overturn them if they are not to their liking. This inquisitorial mode of review has been criticized as being in violation of the constitutional right to adversary procedure and equality of the parties in the trial. It is also a tool used by the higher courts to enforce conformity in decision-making in the lower courts and to discipline judges who seek to be independent in their resolution of cases. At least one of the successor states of the Soviet Union, Georgia, has abolished this type of "review" in its new Code of Criminal Procedure.

Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Russia - Substantive Criminal Law [next] [back] Comparative Criminal Law and Enforcement: Russia - The Criminal Trial And The Presumption Of Innocence

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