Maître Jérôme Dirou is a criminal lawyer, former President of the Bar of Bordeaux and current President of the Criminal Commission of the Conference of President of the Bar. For him, the over-media coverage of a trial induces above all a high quality of judgment.
Jonathann Daval was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. Did the over-media coverage of the trial have an impact on the verdict?
Yes, the media coverage may have had an effect on the decision of the Assize Court. First, because when a trial is publicized, there is great professional rigor among judges and lawyers. We know that the trial is very enlightened so as a consequence everything must go well. We can then expect a very high quality of justice. Then, jurors, civil parties, witnesses … necessarily hear everything that is said in the media. And it influences their way of seeing things, of speaking, of thinking. There is through the media an effect induced in the course of the trial, it is indisputable.
The fact that the President of the Assize Court said a few words at the opening of the trial to remind people that the media were not going to judge shows that this risk does exist.
Some lawyers believe the verdict is harsh. What do you think ?
First, compared to the requisitions of the Advocate General who called for life imprisonment, it is not such a severe sentence. After that, that is indeed what many are saying. That said, with the Assize Courts, there is no real case law, so it is very difficult to say that a decision is severe or even lenient. It is simply a decision of the Assize Court. The fact that no one appealed against this verdict also shows that the justice system has done its job well.
Besides the media coverage, what are the elements that can have an impact in this kind of trial?
The Assize Courts being composed of popular jurors, things can obviously depend on the drawing of lots. This is also why lawyers can challenge certain jurors who could be more severe in certain cases and others less.