Any Decision You Want, So Long As It's "Guilty" (Corrected)


Brazen violations of due process are a dime a dozen in revolutionary Venezuela, sure, but few can be quite so brazen as the effective judicial kidnapping of National Assembly member-elect Biagio Pilieri.

The guy actually faced a full trial in front of a randomly selected three-man jury in Yaracuy State over allegations of misuse of funds during his 2000-2005 stint as major of Chivacoa.

After hearing ten full days of testimony and deliberating over the evidence, the three jurors (“escabinos”) agreed that the charges against him were not proven and told the judge they intended to declare him Not Guilty.

The judge’s reaction?

She dissolved the jury, then called in sick the day she should have presided over a ruling. This gave the Supreme Tribunal time to declare a mistrial and send Pilieri off to Caracas to be tried again

…which, by any estimation, would be outrageous enough except, at this point, Pillieri has been subjected to this acquittal-mistrial-retrial rigamarole not once but twice!

Correction: An earlier version had the trial judge declaring the mistrial. In fact, it was the TSJ.

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  1. Incidentally, I think the claims of parliamentary inmunity being made in favor of Pilieri – and others – are just dumb. The constitution is pretty clear on what Parliamentary Immunity covers:

    Artículo 200: Los diputados o diputadas a la Asamblea Nacional gozarán de inmunidad en el ejercicio de sus funciones desde su proclamación hasta la conclusión de su mandato o de la renuncia del mismo.

    Parliamentary immunity isn’t the kind of blanket, retroactive pardon some people in the opposition have made it out to be. It covers stuff that you do WHILE you’re an Assembly Member, not before.

    It just goes to show that some in the opposition are just as constitutionally illiterate as the government they oppose.

    Of course, in Pilieri’s case, it’s all a big red herring anyway: the reason he should be free isn’t that he won a seat in the A.N.; the reason he should be free is that juries keep finding him not guilty!

  2. Quico,

    I thought what happened in the last round was even more obvious. The judge suspended the session the day she would have had to rule and called in sick the next day (she was going to be away for 20 days!?!?!). That was a Friday, by Monday the TSJ had claimed the case for themselves and annulled the trial to start it over. The other judge was back in her bench by Tuesday.

    I agree with you the immunity argument is a red herring, however the process done to guy is an outrageous abuse of the (un)justice system which clearly has loss any independence. If you were the judge, wouldn’t have you called in sick after one phone call? All you have to do is remember one name: Afiuni.


  3. Well, you are right: it seems some in the MUD are not much wiser.
    They are angered about the Ley Habilitante and they are right but they should be much angrier about the Ley Antitalanquera, which is so obviously anti-constitutional. I read the article in the Venezuelan constitution about deputies being subject to their conscience alone and it was almost a copy of the German constitution. I tell my German friends about this and they are completely shocked…but Venezuelans?
    Is it because the MUD guys think “well, es problema de los otros”?

  4. Your reading of the Constitution is a narrow one; it reflects British and US traditions of Parliamentary immunity.

    It’s not just fools who support the broader verson of Parliamentary immunity, though:
    “Alberto Arteaga Sánchez, a former dean of the Faculty of Political and Juridical Sciences, Central University of Venezuela, said that the investigation carried out against both new opposition elected deputies should be suspended immediately under Article 200 of the Constitution, which provides: “Deputies of the National Assembly shall enjoy immunity in the exercise of their functions from the time of their installation until the end of their term or resignation.”

    “If a person is a deprived of freedom for being subject to a judicial process and during such time he/she is declared a deputy, the process should be suspended and the person must be released,” said the constitutional expert. ”

    When criminal processes issuing from the Executive can, potentially, alter the composition of the National Assembly or Parliament, and thereby alter the results of an election, a broad understanding of privilege makes sense.

    The Azuaje case is relevant here, too.

    I agree 100% that the acquittal of Pilieri makes it all irrelevant, though.


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