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The importance of the correct return of the record in the procedure of the jury court

The recent Supreme Court sentence number 1859/2022, issued the 19th of May, annuls the sentence of the Hight Court of Justice of Valencia number 63/2020, issued the 13th of March, which confirmed the acquittal sentence of the Provincial Court of Alicante number 10/2019, issued the 19th of December. The latter, passed within the Jury Court procedure, acquitted the defendant as criminally responsible for the crimes of murder and illegal possession of weapons for the death of his mother-in-law in 2016 due to multiple bullet wounds.

The ground of the appeal and cassation appeal was the violation of the right to effective judicial protection of the accusing parties due to the defective way in which the record of the jury containing its verdict was returned, and how it was subsequently destructed.

The Organic Law of the Jury Court (LOTJ) indicates in its articles 53, 54 and 64 that, once the Magistrate-Judge notices in the record issued by the jury one of the defects appraised in the law, considering that the record must be returned to the jury for its correction, a first technical hearing must be held, without the presence of the popular jury, in which the Public Prosecutor and the parties state their agreement or rejection with the Magistrate’s decision of returning the act. After this first procedure, a second hearing must be held with the presence of the members of the jury to explain the reason why the record is being retuned. In this last hearing, the parties don’t present their arguments to the jury, as this is the subject of the previous hearing.

Regarding the destruction of the record, the sentence indicates that everything that takes place in the plenary has to be governed by the principle of publicity. Plus, it indicates that the parties have the right to know if the evidentiary assessment and the decision of the jury that includes the minutes are enough to justify the accusation or not, so the parties can argue everything they deem appropriate before the decision of the Magistrate to return the minutes to the jury for its correction.

The sentence, which contains a dissenting vote, concludes that these decisions unequivocally restricted the principle of contradiction, stating that the justificatory discourse contained in the sentence did not exceed the canon of rationality and eroded the appellant’s right to effective judicial protection. Finally, the sentence dictates that the trial must be repeated with a new popular jury and a new magistrate.

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