Monday, May 4, 2009

"63% support death penalty as lay judges

"Sixty-three percent of people who may be called to serve as lay judges would choose the death penalty for a criminal suspect if they thought the offense merited such punishment, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey shows.

"Twenty-three percent would not seek the death penalty, the survey showed.

"Forty-eight percent of respondents said criminal trials would improve by introducing the lay judge system, which will take effect on May 21, less than the 53 percent figure reflected in the previous survey conducted in December 2006.

"However, the figure indicates many respondents held a favorable view ahead of the introduction of the system, compared with 27 percent who said they believed it would worsen the nation's criminal trial system.

"In the previous survey, 23 percent of respondents expressed a negative view.

"The latest survey was conducted on April 25 and 26, with 3,000 eligible voters randomly selected from 250 locations nationwide, with 1,810, or 60.3 percent, giving valid answers. The survey was carried out in a face-to-face interview format. Of the respondents, 49 percent were male and 51 percent were female.

"Regarding rulings handed down in past criminal trials, 34 percent said they thought that in many cases judges handed down appropriate sentences to defendants, 50 percent thought judges were too soft and 4 percent said they were too strict.

"The survey reflects expectations that the disparity between judges' rulings and the public's desire for punishment will narrow when citizens join criminal trials as lay judges.

"When asked about the new system, 4 percent responded they knew a great deal about it, and 45 percent said they had a certain knowledge level--meaning 49 percent were acquainted with the scheme, a big jump from the 30 percent indicated in the previous survey.

"However, the rate of those who wanted to serve as lay judges in a trial stood at 18 percent, down two points from the previous survey, while 79 percent said they did not want to participate, up four points from the previous poll.

"In a multiple-response questionnaire seeking reasons for not wanting to serve as a lay judge, 53 percent--the greatest number among the answers given--said they had no confidence in their ability to appropriately assess criminal cases.

"Regarding the introduction of the system, 34 percent said they agreed with it, while 62 percent were opposed.

"Citizens' weighing of the pros and cons of the lay judge system clearly has changed, as in the previous survey 50 percent said they agreed with the system's introduction, while 40 percent were against it when they were asked the same question in May 2004.

"Now that the system has gained greater recognition, people may feel the increased burden of responsibility they will have as lay judges and consequently may be very worried, analysts said."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (5/4/2009), Link to article (last visited 5/4/2009)

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