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The first trial by jury in the history of Argentina’s largest province has found a defendant, 30-year-old Guillermo Barros, not guilty of murder.
The presiding judge’s voice broke with emotion many times on Thursday, and some members of the 12 person jury cried when they saw the relatives of the defendant crying when they heard the verdict.
“He was making big efforts not to cry. He, and we, were completely aware of the importance of the moment,” Andres Harfuch, a professor and vice president of the Argentinian Association of Trial by Juries, said to Fox News Latino. “We were witnessing history.”
The jury - an art school teacher, a scientist, a student, housewives and businessmen - decided the verdict within three days. The trial was the first of its kind in Argentina's largest province, which is home to nearly half of the country's population. Here as in much of the country, it was a judge who held all the judicial power.
Whether or not Congress decides to pass legislation establishing a jury system throughout nationwide may very well depend on its success in Buenos Aires.
Only time will tell, but for now, Guillermo Barros is the man most happy with the jury’s historic decision. He was charged with murder for allegedly shooting his former brother-in-law. Barros’ sister called him after her ex-husband showed up at her home with a shotgun threatening her and her relatives, demanding that he be allowed to see his daughters.
They struggled outside the home, and during the fight, the gun went off.
“He wanted to kill me or kill someone in the house. I never wanted to hurt him,” Barros told the local media. “The gun went off, he had his hand on the trigger. I did not fire the weapon.”
“I feel proud that we made history because one raises kids and grandkids and no one knows what will happen. I did justice,” Ramona said, a 72-year-old retiree on the jury, to Telam.com.
The jury foreman, Andres, said at times their task was “a heavy burden because it was deciding whether (the accused) was free or given fifteen years imprisonment." But he implored the public and future jurors to relax, saying being part of a jury is a "good experience."
Harfuch, who has been lobbying for a trial by jury system in Argentina for decades, said the judge and jury took photos together after the verdict, but during the trial everyone was very professional.
“One of my friends texted me and said his mother texted him and said, ‘I want to be a juror!’” Harfuch told FNL.
“This expresses how the people of Argentina are feeling.”