Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lay Judge Preparations

"The Tokyo District Court plans to begin trials in April of a daily court system aimed at concluding in only a few days trials of all kinds of serious crimes, in preparation for the launch next year of the lay judge system, judicial sources said Thursday.

"The district court will propose the plan in a March 3 meeting with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office and the three bar associations in Tokyo, the sources said.

"Criminal trials take a relatively long time to come to a conclusion partly because court sessions are held at long intervals.

"The Tokyo District Court plans to apply the daily court system to actual trials, not mock tribunals, in a bid to pinpoint the problems in introducing the lay judge system and to find solutions, the sources said.

"Under the lay judge system, professional judges and members of the public, serving as lay judges, will jointly try serious crimes, including murder, robbery resulting in death, injuries leading to death, and arson, for which the maximum punishment is death or life imprisonment.

"Most of these trials are expected to conclude in three to five days under the new system.

"(...)

"In a planned reform of the judicial system for criminal trials, the lay judge system is scheduled to debut in May 2009, aiming at making ordinary citizens feel closer to the criminal trial process and at improving public trust in the judiciary.

"Under the 2004 judicial reform law, professional judges and citizen judges, who will be chosen at random from lists of eligible voters in a general election for the House of Representatives, regardless of their views, faith or abilities, will oversee criminal trials. The lay judges will have equal authority in deciding on the verdicts and punishments.

"Basically, three professional judges plus six lay judges will decide by a majority vote whether a defendant is guilty, and will hand down a sentence in a conviction. At least one professional judge and one lay judge must have voted on the majority side."

By Kyodo News (2/8/2008), The Japan Times Online, Link to article (last visited 2/26/2008)

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