Giorgi Oniani is one of the more than 2,000 Georgian criminal defense attorneys who took the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) trainings on trial advocacy skills and on Georgia’s Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). The skills he acquired through the trainings came in handy in July, when he was representing a defendant in the country’s fourth-ever jury trial. His client was charged with murder, attempted murder under aggravated circumstances, manslaughter and the illegal purchase, carrying and storage of a firearm. Following Oniani’s successful display of trial advocacy skills, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict on the most serious charges of murder and attempted murder under aggravated circumstances. The jury also recommended leniency in sentencing the defendant for his convictions, which led the judge to sentence him only to two-and-half years in prison. The maximum sentence for the convictions would have been eight years.
Over the years, including before Georgia adopted its 2010 CPC—which established an adversarial criminal justice system, began the process of rolling out jury trials for specified crimes such as aggravated murder, and expanded defense attorneys’ ability to defend their clients—ABA ROLI has been training criminal defense attorneys throughout the country. ABA ROLI’s trainings support the establishment of a fair and well-functioning criminal justice system by promoting equality of arms between defense attorneys and prosecutors. The trainings—which cover such topics as trial advocacy skills, forensics, expert witness testimony, legal writing, jury selection, plea bargaining and appeals, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)—help counterbalance the inherent disadvantages of Georgia’s more than 2,400 defense attorneys compared to the country’s 400 prosecutors, who have access to extensive government-sponsored trainings.
While ABA ROLI will continue to provide in-person trainings to Georgian defense attorneys, it will also establish an online training platform to make its trainings and materials widely available. The classes cover the same subjects as the in-person courses.
ABA ROLI’s criminal law program in Georgia is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
To learn more about our work in Georgia, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].