Monday, July 21, 2008

Dressing Up for Trials

"Defendants will likely be allowed to wear neckties and open-back slippers that look like leather shoes in courtrooms to give them a more dignified appearance when the lay judge system comes into force next May, sources said Sunday.

"The change will be reflected in practice trials Tuesday at the Tokyo District Court, the sources said.

"The rule is aimed at warding off negative impressions or prejudice among the lay judges, who will be selected at random from voter registration lists.

"Under current rules, defendants typically show up in court dressed in sportswear and sandals. In most cases, ties and shoes are not allowed to prevent suicide or escape. Defendants are also made to sit between two guards in front of their lawyers.

"The Justice Ministry is expected to consider revising rules on the use of restraints, such as handcuffs and other types of shackles, when defendants enter courtrooms, the sources said.

"Revising the rules on the seating location of defendants and their attire was raised during a meeting of a citizens' group in which the Japan Federation of Bar Associations gathered the opinions of intellectuals.

"According to the sources, Jimpachi Mori, a cartoonist known for depicting the trial system, said during the meeting, "Defendants are tried in such miserable conditions, wearing jerseys. It's not right when courts of justice are deeply involved with human rights."

"The citizens' group asked the bar association in April 2005 to try to improve the situation.

"Following a request from the bar association, the Justice Ministry plans to permit defendants to sit next to their lawyers in courtrooms while two guards sit behind them, on condition that one of the two guards places a leg between the defendant and lawyer to prevent escape.

"Each courthouse is expected to grant the change in seating if requested by the defense as long as there are no objections from prosecutors or the judicial authorities, the sources said.

"As for attire, the ministry will allow defendants to wear clip-on ties, which would be harder for defendants to use to choke themselves, and slippers that look like leather shoes from the front.

"The items will be available on loan at detention facilities at the request of defendants, they said."

By Kyodo News (7/21/2008), Japan Times, Link to article (last visited 7/22/2008)

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