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August 3, 2009

Japan's revival of jury trials to include jury sentencing

Fans of Blakely and jury involvement in criminal justice administration should be interested in this international news report, which is headlined "Japan holds 1st criminal jury trial since WWII."   In addition to discussing Japan's decision to start having jury trials, the report details that the first such trial came after a guilty plea so that the very first jury's role is all about making a sentencing judgment rather than doing basic guilt fact-finding.  Here are the interesting details:

Japan opened its first jury trial since World War II on Monday under a major overhaul of a legal system that has often been criticized as unfair and arduous. Six jurors are working with three judges to hand down a verdict for 72-year-old Katsuyoshi Fujii, who has been charged with murder in the fatal stabbing of a 66-year-old neighbor in May....

Japan launched a jury trial system in 1928, but dropped it in 1943 as the country headed into chaos with World War II. The system was never popular because legal professionals opposed allowing regular people as jurors, and defendants had to pay legal fees....

Fujii's lawyers say he is pleading guilty but that they are asking for leniency in sentencing because he has expressed remorse.  Murder carries a maximum penalty of death in Japan, although it's unlikely in a case involving one victim.

The son of the victim is expected to take the stand to plead with the jurors, according to the court. His mother was stabbed to death, allegedly after a quarrel, the court said. "This is a historic trial, and I feel I must do my best to be up to the job," prosecutor Tetsuo Maeda told reporters on NKH TV news, as he headed into the courtroom, where jury selection started in the morning.

Japan is set to hear about 2,000 to 3,000 jury trials per year, all involving serious crimes such as murder and kidnapping.  About 300,000 candidates are being randomly selected from eligible voters nationwide annually to serve jury duty each year.

Since 2004, when the nation decided on the new jury system, legal experts have held seminars to make trials easier to understand and have held about 300 mock trials. Some people are still reluctant to serve on a jury.  "It is such a heavy responsibility to cast judgment on other people," said Tomoe Obata, a 49-year-old office worker, who attended a mock trial earlier this year. "What if I'm assigned to a murder case and we are asked to consider the death penalty?"

With the arrival of a jury trial, Japanese will have a chance to play a bigger role in doling out justice, Bar Association President Makoto Miyazaki said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "A more transparent and fair criminal justice system serves everyone's interests," he said.

As I discussed in my recent Sidebar commentary for the Columbia Law Review, I think anyone seriously committed to the conceptual and constitutional principles behind the Apprendi-Blakely line of cases ought to favor greater jury involvement in both capital and noncapital sentencing proceedings.  Though the particulars of Japan's new system are unclear, it will be quite ironic if the country's new jury trial program means the Japanese people end up having a lot more say in typical sentencing outcomes than do modern American jurors (outside the capital context).

August 3, 2009 at 09:28 AM | Permalink


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If there is an empirical advantage to juries (wisdom of the crowd effect), it has been eliminated by the lawyer. The latter wants to put on a fairy tale show, and to influence stupid people. As a result, he has crippled the benefits of having a jury. Average and intelligent people all get out of jury duty, because it destroys income and productivity. The lawyer excludes all those with knowledge. The first secret vote is the sole one with validity. After that, all votes reflect the view of the biggest loudmouth, bullying the rest that want to go home. Juries cannot detect the truth using their gut instincts. They can detect how much they are charmed by and like the smooth sociopath, both defendant and lawyer.

The jury also violates the Thirteenth Amendment, no matter what self-dealing appellate decisions say. These judges should be tried for crimes against humanity that violate the Constitution and ratified international treaties.

The jury is garbage, but par for the lawyer course.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 4, 2009 6:30:18 PM

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