RIA Novosti opinion column by Boris Kaimakov on the Oleg Shcherbinsky case as a "turning point in modern Russian history". Very big words that I would not have dared to write.
I think the fact that Russian citizens could peacefully protest the verdict and that the Russian court system quickly reexamined the case - was a great outcome. As this opinion column notes, retrials do not normally happen so quickly in Russia.
Never before in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia was a traffic accident discussed so openly and objectively. In the mid-1950s, the country was shocked by the death in a car accident of Belarussian leader Pyotr Masherov, who was expected to become the top ruler with time. Officially, a truck hit Masherov's car; its driver was sentenced to a long prison term. But the course of the investigation and the fact that the trial was held behind closed doors provoked the rumor that the accident was premeditated and the driver was not to blame.
Similar rumors and versions floated around during the Shcherbinsky case too, when some opposition sites made public the results of their investigations, concluding that it was an assassination.
There are mixed reasons for the authorities' close attention to the case of Shcherbinsky, notably public discontent over the first court ruling, which sentenced the man to four years, and open disregard for the procedure and rules of investigation. Prominent Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, member of the Public Chamber under the Russian president, openly spoke about the low standards used during the investigation. And one more reason was the interest of top state officials, who should have been the recipients of the guilty verdict passed on Shcherbinsky in the eyes of the people.
This called for revising the verdict. A second trial was held, surprisingly for Russia, very quickly. The court quashed the "guilty" verdict, putting the blame on the Mercedes' driver.
Shcherbinsky's acquittal and the fact that he was set free has become a turning point in Russia because society saw that it can prove the court wrong and ordinary people can defeat the authorities in a battle for their rights. This is one of the most important precedents in recent Russian history.