The trial of Britney Griner is due to begin on Friday, but legal experts warn that a Russian court will not give the WNBA star a chance for justice.
According to T.J. Quinn, Griner will face a “show trial” that will almost certainly result in a conviction. There are no juries, and 99 percent of criminal cases in Russia end with a guilty verdict.
William Pomerants, an expert on Russian law, said it was a “foregone conclusion” that the court would “confirm the power of the state.” As a result, he explained that Griner might be better off if she pleads guilty.
“Traditionally, the best defense is to plead guilty and hope for a reduced sentence,” Pomerants said. “There are not many examples where people come up with a strong defense and justify themselves.”
Griner is accused of importing hashish oil into the country. If found guilty, she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Experts told Quinn that Russia would most likely require Griner to plead guilty as part of any agreement to release her. The statement of “innocence” may lead to the fact that Russian officials “in the meantime will make her life even more miserable.”
While a guilty plea may complicate negotiations for the United States, it will make a deal “more likely.”
It’s unclear how Griner is going to speak, and Quinn said the trial could last weeks or even months. Danielle Gilbert, associate professor of Military and Strategic Studies at the US Air Force Academy, called the whole situation a “negotiation strategy” for Russia.
“Hostage diplomacy relies on the pretense of the law to simulate a legitimate process,” Gilbert said. “The Russian government depends on Americans’ own respect for the rule of law to conceal their intention to use Griner as leverage.”