Jury system introduced by Welsh settlers returns to Patagonia for first time in 140 years
Earlier this week Chubut Province in northeast Patagonia held its first jury trial in 140 years.
The trial was the result of a new law passed in 2021 that restored the use of juries in the province which were first introduced by Welsh immigrants in the 19th century, who brought the practice with them when they settled in the region.
The jury system was subsequently discontinued in the late 19th century but was revived three years ago in response to a demand for greater transparency and accountability in the justice system.
The case tried this week took place in the town of Gaiman, in the Spanish Association Hall and involved a young man who was accused of murder.
The jury of six women and six men deliberated for almost three hours before finding the defendant guilty. He is now awaiting sentencing.
“This is a historic event,” said Dr. Mario Luis Vivas, chairman of the Supreme Court of Justice of Chubut. “It marks a new stage in the development of the justice system in our province.”
“I am very pleased that we were able to hold this trial,” said Darío James, mayor of Gaiman. “It shows that Chubut is a province that is committed to justice and the rule of law.”
The jury trial in Gaiman is seen as a milestone in the history of the justice system in Chubut and supporters of the system hope the use of juries will help to improve public confidence in the courts.
Argentina’s 1853 National Constitution and an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1994 both guarantee a right to a trial by jury, however the Argentine Congress has failed to pass the necessary legislation to establish a national jury system.
Individual provinces can introduce jury systems but there remains resistance to the replacement of Argentina’s historically judge-driven, inquisitorial legal system.
Critics claim the jury system leads to more uncertain and unfair trial results.
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