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In 1995, the Spanish Parliament reenacted trial by jury in criminal cases by implementing a mandate of the 1978 post Franco Spanish Constitution. This article discusses the 17 year dispute, following the ratification of the democratic post-Franco Spanish Constitution, on whether Article 25 mandated the reintroduction of lay participation in the criminal trial, and, if so, whether in the form of the classic jury or a continental European style court with lay assessors. This article analyzes the Law on Trial by Jury and its implementation in the first year of trials, and references Spain’s experience with trial by jury in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also offers a comparative perspective, in particular with the new Russian jury legislation, and where other countries have addressed similar situations.

The goal of this Article is both to introduce the new Spanish system of trial by jury to American readers and to situate the Spanish experience within the theoretical framework of the reform of criminal procedure in the civil law countries of continental Europe.