The Battle to Establish an Adversarial Trial System in Italy

This Article is intended to bring the U.S. legal community up to date on the attempt in Italy to put in place a more accusatorial trial system. The Article is divided into three sections. Section I describes the central provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure that was adopted in 1988. It shows that a close look at the Italian system reveals that it was never intended to be an exact model of either the U.S. or English trial systems, because it always contained central features that are found in civil law systems on the continent. Rather, the changes in the 1988 Code of Criminal Procedure were only intended to adopt an adversarial system to the extent that power over the control of the criminal trial was to be shifted away from the trial judges and placed squarely on the shoulders of the public prosecutors and the defense lawyers, who would have the primary responsibility for presenting evidence and for examining (and cross-examining) witnesses. Section I also discusses one of the main changes in the Italian system under the Code-the introduction of a form of plea bargaining whereby the public prosecutor and the defense attorney were permitted to seek a reduced sentence for a defendant in exchange for the avoidance of trial.