Public Defender’s Statement on Acquittal of a Convicted Person
The Supreme Court of Georgia acquitted a convict in a case on which the Public Defender of Georgia had applied to the court with the opinion of a friend of the court (amicus curiae). According to the judgment of the Chamber of Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court of Georgia of September 22, 2023, the convict has been fully acquitted.
Although the judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia does not specifically mention the Public Defender's amicus curiae brief, it is welcome that the Public Defender's arguments regarding the importance of neutral evidence have been evaluated and shared by the cassation chamber.
It is known to the public that the Public Defender, in accordance with the mandate granted by law, cannot evaluate whether a person is guilty or not and can only submit analysis and argumentation to the court about the human rights standards.
One of the problems for which the Public Defender is often applied to by the accused or the convicted, concerns the imposition of criminal liability in the absence of neutral evidence.
The present case concerned this very issue. In particular, the person acquitted by the Supreme Court had been detained and found guilty by the courts of two instances (and sentenced to 4 years in prison) for illegally purchasing, keeping and carrying a firearm.
During the investigation, the prosecution did not try to obtain neutral evidence (footage of the personal search) that would have convinced an objective observer, along with other evidence, that the accused had committed the crime. The seizure of the weapon during the search was confirmed only by the testimonies of the police officers participating in the investigation.
The Supreme Court of Georgia shared the opinion that the standards established by the Constitutional Court of Georgia (judgement in the case of Keburia v. the Parliament of Georgia) and the European Court of Human Rights had not been observed during the personal search, since the prosecution neither during the investigative action - personal search - nor after it tried to obtain neutral evidence (video recordings).
The Public Defender’s Office has been talking about the importance of neutral evidence and the need for making all possible efforts by the law enforcement agencies to obtain such evidence for years. The Public Defender has sent a number of amicus curiae briefs to the common courts, with the goal of promoting the courts to develop a common approach that would encourage law enforcement agencies to pursue human rights-based practices.
The Public Defender believes that the judgment of the Chamber of Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court of Georgia of September 22, 2023 will make a significant contribution to the proper protection of human rights in the practice of common courts and the implementation of the standard established by the judgements of the Constitutional Court of Georgia and European courts, so that people are longer subjected to criminal liability without obtaining/trying to obtain neutral evidence. The Public Defender’s Office continues to actively monitor the law enforcement agencies in this direction.