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July 16, 2014

Georgian Defense Attorneys Credit ABA ROLI Trainings for Their Successes in New Jury Trial System

July 2014

Three Georgian defense attorneys credited ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) trainings with preparing them to assume new roles and serve their clients more effectively under the country’s new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). The CPC introduced jury trials into the country’s criminal justice system in 2010. ABA ROLI has since been implementing a training program designed to help lawyers prepare for the transition to an adversarial criminal justice system. Over the past four years, ABA ROLI has trained more than 2,000 lawyers in skills that are necessary for practicing under this new system.

Sulkhan Komakhidze and Paata Mekhrishvili, both public defenders, and Nodar Tsintsadze, a defense attorney in private practice, are among the lawyers who took part in ABA ROLI’s trainings, including basic and advanced courses on the CPC and on trial advocacy skills, as well as on forensic science and criminalistics, expert witness selection and examination, legal writing, negotiation and plea bargaining.

Sulkhan and Paata, who in December 2013 represented a client accused with aggravated murder, said that these trainings prepared them to operate confidently in the courtroom. The lawyers said that the knowledge and skills they acquired through ABA ROLI’s trainings enabled them to effectively research the law, investigate the case, and better defend their client. The attorneys’ investigation led them to evidence of death threats their client had received from the victim. They were able to prove to the jury that the victim attacked their client and was reaching for a knife when their client killed him in self-defense. The attorneys demonstrated to the jury that their client did not intend to kill the victim, sparing their client an aggravated-murder conviction, which carries a prison sentence of 16 years to life. Their client was instead convicted of acting in excessive self-dense and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Early this year, Tsintsadze, who has also taken part in several ABA ROLI trainings since 2010, represented four defendants accused of fraud. While the prosecutor called 20 witnesses over the two-week long trial, Tsintsadze’s cross-examination exposed weaknesses in the prosecution’s theory, convincing the jury that his clients could not be proven guilty beyond doubt. The jury agreed and all four of Tsintsadze’s clients were acquitted of all charges. Tsintsadze said that what he learned from ABA ROLI courses allowed him to do his job more effectively.

ABA ROLI’s Criminal Law Reform Program in Georgia is supported by the U.S. Department State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

To learn more about our work in Georgia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].