Friday Clubs

Discussion at French University on the possibility of jury trials in Armenia
On May 14, 2015 ABA ROLI participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by French University of Armenia titled “The Implementation of the Jury Trial System in the Republic of Armenia – the Views of Legal Professionals and Law Students.” Currently, jury trials are much discussed and very relevant in Armenia because there is a provision allowing for the implementation of jury trials in the concept paper for constitutional reforms.

ABA ROLI criminal law specialist Garen Nazarian was one of the panelists during the event. The four other members of the panel were an advocate, a prosecutor, a judge, and Yerevan State University law professor Gevorg Danielyan, who is a member of the President’s special commission tasked with drafting the constitutional amendments. Each of the panelists were provided time for opening remarks. Mr. Nazarian spoke of his experience as a trial juror at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office, the benefits of a jury trial system and the likelihood that it could be implemented successfully in Armenia.

Mr. Nazarian stated that jury trials serve as a crucial check on prosecutorial power, a very important component in America’s system of checks and balances. Two particular members of the panel expressed their belief that jury trials will not work in Armenia because of the country’s small population. “Everyone knows everyone” was the common refrain. These two panelists also stated the level of legal knowledge and sophistication in Armenia is too low for jury trials to work. Mr. Nazarian reminded the participants that jury trials were implemented in America over 250 years ago when the country was not so populous and developed. Mr. Nazarian concluded his remarks by saying countries and societies must aspire to better things and that the adoption of jury trials is one way for Armenia to aspire to a more just judicial system. After completing his opening remarks, Mr. Nazarian played the portions of ABA ROLI’s jury trial video related to the benefits jury trials would bring to Armenia and neighboring country Georgia’s experience since implementing jury trials on a limited basis.

For the remainder of the 3 hour session, French University students were given the floor to state their views regarding jury trials and to ask questions of the panelists. The overwhelming opinion that day amongst the students was that jury trials would be a great development for justice in Armenia and should be implemented, but incrementally and with the right mechanisms to make sure that jury trials benefit the country’s justice system. Several students also stated that Armenia should not simply import a jury trial system from another country but should develop a system that takes into account the circumstances and reality in Armenia.