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Why do juries acquit killers?

Why do juries acquit killers?

A jury in St. Petersburg has acquitted the defendants in a case of murder of Vietnamese student Vu Anh Tuan. A group of young criminals intended to beat up a watermelon seller from the Caucasus, but saw another victim, the Vietnamese student, who was stabbed 37 times. The youngsters had also attacked citizens of Ghana, Palestine, China and Azerbaijan, whom they called "aliens."
However, the jury accepted the prosecutor's arguments that these were ethnic crimes only with regard to the Chinese.
It was not the first time a jury acquitted suspected murderers of foreigners from ex-Soviet and other countries. A jury in St. Petersburg acquitted the defendants in a murder case of Tajik girl Khursheda Sultonova, which was a high-profile trial and obviously a racist crime.
In fact, such crimes have become very numerous, and all of them are abominably ruthless. It is usually teenagers who kill or beat up people with a different skin color or non-Slavic features. They attack in large groups, and their actions are calculated and cold-blooded, which makes resistance useless.
These boys can be diagnosed with the virus of "common racism." The wave of xenophobia, which has become one of the biggest problems in Russia, has spread to the educated classes (who profess "enlightened" nationalism) and the dispossessed, who use iron bars or knives to attack their victims.
Their behavior is an ugly expression of public reaction to a rapidly growing immigration, social problems (which some Russians blame on "aliens"), and distorted elements of post-Soviet national awareness.
'Judgement of the street'
It is not surprising therefore that juries, which famous lawyer of tsarist Russia Anatoly Koni also described as "the judgment of the street," express the opinions of the "street majority." And the majority of Russians complain that there are too many immigrants, who have no place in their city and country.
The perennial question is: Is Russia ready for trials by jury, which was introduced at the start of liberal reforms? The unprofessional opinion of the "street" prevents juries from taking fair, not to mention legally justified, decisions.
The strange part is that nobody complained about the juries' decisions until recently, when juries departed from the law and common sense and started giving long sentences to scientists for alleged espionage and acquitting racist killers.
Maybe the root cause is not the juries but the predominant atmosphere in society, the mob's xenophobic feelings that influence the juries, who are ordinary people?
Experts say that selecting jurors is the main problem, as nobody asks candidates about their attitude to ethnic problems. A person with apparent nationalist views, although they are widespread in Russian society, should not sit on a jury because he or she cannot represent the whole of Russian society and pass judgment on the defendant.
Pollsters note that the public was alarmed by the acquittal of the defendants accused of murdering the Tajik girl, who was above all a child and only then an "alien."
The acquittal in the Vietnamese student murder case is a new reason to think about the procedure for improving juries, and about the situation in Russian society, which is running a high xenophobic fever that affects verdicts.
Andrei Kolesnikov is a political commentator for the Russian News and Information Agency Novosti; Web site: http://en.rian.ru/.


Updated : 2021-10-23 14:11 GMT+08:00