Friday, July 30, 2010

The judicial system has now refused a jury trial to detained Venezuelan Justice Maria Lourdes Afiuni . Legally, Justice Afiuni has a right to be tried by a jury; however, the government has claimed this to be administratively impossible. Justice Afiuni's legal team then elected a "mixed trial", which means that the two laypersons are included as finders of fact. While this system is a far cry from an actual jury trial, it does mean that someone other than a state employee will decide on guilt or innocence.

On Wednesday, July 28th, Judge Ali Paredes decided that Justice Afiuni's trial will take place on August 10th, 2010, and it will be a "judge alone" trial, despite the fact that the law supposedly insures that she be able to elect the mode of her trial.

Justice Afiuni is in jail because she granted bail to a political prisoner, contrary to the desires of President Hugo Chavez. Even though the Venezuelan Constitition mandated release, Justice Afiuni was arrested within the hour and pulled down from the bench by security police.

Since the charges--"aiding an escape" and "corruption" allow a possible sentence of life imprisonment, the right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the COPP, or Criminal Procedure Statute, Article 62.