Critical Decision in Citizens’ Hands in Japan

Posted by Yoko on September 16th, 2008

I’d like to talk about the Japanese judicial system again.
In Japan, all the criminal and civil cases are tried only by lawyers and judges.  Even though the public can witness the trials, a jury system made up of members of the public has never been used.
However, a new citizen judge system will start next year.  This means, unlike the U.S jury system, six citizens who are randomly elected, will share their opinions and decisions with three judges, not only in the verdict phase, but also the sentencing phase.  More importantly, this system applies to ONLY SERIOUS CRIMINAL CASES that are mainly comprised of murder (including death penalty cases), manslaughter, arson, kidnapping and child negligence cases. 
The theory behind this citizen judge system is that public opinions should be heard and reflected in court decisions so that trials will (ideally) be even more just and fair.  As I mentioned before, however, over 90 % of Japanese people support the death penalty.  This new public interaction with the legal system may provide Japanese people with a unique opportunity to become aware of the serious issues surrounding the death penalty.  On the other hand, this new system will allow the public to decide who should live or die, and could prove to be an outlet for the public’s outrage towards the perpetrators of heinous crimes.  I don't know which direction this process will take­ whether it will make the system more fair or less.  Even though it’s very controversial, I hope this new legal process will at least stimulate more lively and informed discussions in the future.
Unfortunately, since my last blog entry, another 3 death row inmates were executed in Japan last week.  Lately, executions have been occurring about every two months.  Compared with the last 10 years, the number of the death verdicts handed down has been rapidly increasing, as is the pace of the executions.  These new developments, sadly, go against the worldwide trend to reduce and eliminate the use of the death penalty. 
A previous Japanese minister of justice said, “Once a death sentence is finalized, execution should be carried out promptly.”  This really horrified me.
Fact:    35 executions last 10 years (9 executions were carried out in 2007)
            13 executions in 2008 only

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Add a Comment
  1. Comment by jesus, Sep 17th, 2008 12:25pm

    i disagree.


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