Friday, December 5, 2008

Japanese jury system

A man has killed his employer and the employer’s wife. The jury deliberate over whether he should be given the death sentence or life imprisonment.


Juror 1: Death sentence.

Juror 2: He intended to kill them. Death.

Juror 3: He didn’t have an intention to kill them, so life imprisonment. If we don’t, his mother might commit suicide.

Juror 4: Life.

Juror 5: Death.

Chairman: So the consensus is, by 3 to 2, the death penalty, then.



So goes a mock retrial of a man who admitted to the crime. Japan prepares for adopting a jury system composed of six lay judges (裁判員)and three professional judges beginning in May 2009.

The mock trial on NHK caused lively discussion and drew comments like “dreading the responsibility.”



Darshana said...

I believe the Japanese 'jurors', or lay judges, will have to decide the punishment, whereas in many common law countries jurors decide only if a defendant is guilty or not. And apart from America, most of them don't have a death penalty anyway. So it will be quite a big responsibility for these lay judges.

Another difference from many common law countries is that the lay judges sit together with the professional judges and they make their decision together, as they do in some European countries, not independently. So when I watched that mock trial I was interested to know about the influence of the professional judges.

As far as we could tell, they acted very cautiously and allowed the laymen plenty of time to express their thoughts. But on several key points their comments were crucial.

In the beginning, many of the laymen had doubts about the defendant's intent to kill one of his victims. But the professional judges pointed out that they should not judge him as they found him, but according to how a person of his age and education in that position should act. So they decided he either probably did intend to kill, or at least he should have known that what he was doing could lead to death.

Similarly, many of the lay judges were not happy to award the death penalty, especially having heard about the defendant's personal circumstances. But again the professional judges managed to persuade them that in this particular case it would not be unusual or unjust to award the death penalty.

So it was fascinating for showing how the layperson's conception of the law differs from that of the professional. But it also made me wonder: if the professional opinion is the one which counts, why bother having lay judges?

Heiwakuni said...

Hello Darshana. You sounds like western softy heart. You always saying death punishment is bad. But look yoru countries please. So much violence. Anyone can just kill evrybody any time so easily. In Japan we evaluate life so highly. So if someone take life we must kill. Of course, sometime a person be execute but we find he is not guilty one. It is unfortunately. But this small error cannot help to keep our country so safety. Thank you.

Darshana said...

Dear Heiwakuni, Actually I am not a westerner, though it might be true that I have "softy heart". Certainly, I am against the death penalty, and your comments have managed to strengthen my opinion! I wonder where you get the idea that in "yoru countries...anyone can just kill everybody".

Recently Japan has been using the death penalty more and more, but it does not seem to be making the country safer. Perhaps Japan is still fairly safe compared to many countries, but with incidents like the random mass attack in Akihabara and the stabbing of government officials this year, is it so different from other countries?

By the way, I also heard that in Japan hanging is done in such a way that the neck is not broken. Instead, the person is slowly strangled to death. Is it true? Maybe nobody knows because there is so much secrecy surrounding the death penalty there.