We’ve all seen the headlines about the acquittal of former University of Washington student Amanda Knox, who was in her second year of a 26-year sentence for a murder in Perugia, Italy. What may have escaped notice was that the verdict came from a six-person jury, aided by two judges.
A CNN report breaks down the decision-making procedure used at this juncture:
Eight jurors — six members of the public and two judges — decided the case. The judges take part and vote as part of the jury: their role is to guide but not to instruct the other jurors how to vote. The presiding judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, who was also one of the jurors, read out the verdict.
From the perspective of a U.S. legal scholar, this is interesting in a few respects. First, the role of judges sitting alongside jurors stands in contrast to the independent American jury, or even the mixed juries now in Japan (with judges and jurors voting together). Second, the size of the jury is interesting, using just six people to decide a person’s fate on a murder charge. Finally, it’s noteworthy that this jury played a role in an appeals process. This verdict overturned a trial court, and if Italy’s high court rejects this verdict, the original trial court’s sentence would resume for Knox.