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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 18:14 GMT
S Korea holds first trial by jury
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South Korea has held its first trial by jury, part of efforts to reform a judicial system seen as out of date.

A nine-member jury in the city of Daegu found a 27-year-old man guilty of assaulting a woman during a robbery.

But the jury - whose findings are non-binding - advised leniency in his sentence, after a passionate closing argument by the defence counsel.

South Korea's judicial system, a remnant of its former authoritarian rule, is being gradually reformed.

Last May, the National Assembly agreed to introduce into the largely closed system changes including giving testimony and evidence greater weight.

The new juries will only be used in certain criminal cases, and judges will retain the final say in verdicts and sentences.

The reforms are being closely watched by Japan, which also plans to adopt a jury system.

Lenient sentence

Letters were sent to 230 randomly selected Daegu residents last month, asking them to volunteer for jury service at the Daegu district court.

I am glad to have had this experience as a member of the public
Kim Jin-cheol
Juror

Eighty-six turned up at the court. Nine jurors and three substitute jurors were selected - and the rest turned away, many expressing disappointment at not having been selected.

The jury unanimously found the defendant guilty of the assault of a 70-year-old woman during an attempted burglary.

But in a passionate closing argument, the defence counsel urged leniency, saying the defendant had taken his victim to hospital and turned himself in, said Korean news agency Yonhap.

'Trust'

After a two-hour deliberation the jury recommended a suspended sentence of 30 months and 80 hours' community service, and the judge agreed.

Following the trial, the court president said the innovation was "a significant step to not only improve human rights, but also to win the public's trust", local newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported.

"I am glad to have had this experience as a member of the public," juror Kim Jin-cheol said, according to Reuters news agency.

"It showed the process has made a lot of progressive changes."



SEE ALSO
Timeline: South Korea
12 Feb 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: South Korea
20 Apr 06 |  Country profiles



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