Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Lay judges' decisions respected by high courts

"With 10 months having passed since the start of the lay judge system, high courts nationwide have rejected all appeals filed by 10 defendants in criminal cases tried by citizen judges under the system.

"This shows that the high courts have respected the decisions handed down so far by lay judges at district courts and their branches across the nation, according to observers.

"On Thursday, the Niigata District Court closed its first trial in a case under the system. This means all 60 district and branch courts have passed judgment on cases under the system, which took effect on May 21 last year.

"According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, 417 accused people had received sentences in lay judge trials as of March 19, and just 124 people, or 29.7 percent, appealed the court rulings. This was lower than the figure of 34.6 percent in 2008, when all trials were heard only by professional judges.

"So far, public prosecutors have not appealed for the overturn of a ruling. All 10 people who have so far received appeal court decisions saw their appeals rejected, indicating the high courts' stance of respecting the lay judge decisions.

"In a burglary-injury case in Kyoto, a man who received a 5-1/2-year prison sentence appealed to the Osaka High Court for a reduction in the sentence. But the high court rejected the appeal on March 16, saying, "The ruling given in a lay judge trial can be more severe than the expected sentence in trials ruled only by professional judges because lay judges reflect the points of view and feelings of the public."

"A defense attorney in an appeal trial of a sex crime case in the Tohoku region voiced concern that it may become difficult for appeals against sentences that defendants feels are too severe to be upheld, but added that it is good that lay judges' decisions are respected.

"Meanwhile, 17 people decided to drop appeals they had filed.

"A 24-year-old man who was sent to prison for 17 years for killing a woman at a hotel in Nagoya decided to drop his appeal two months after he filed it. His attorney said the man explained that he realized how appalling his crime was after pondering the sentence. The attorney recalled that the man seemed to take to heart the sentence handed down by the citizen judges.

"Of the 397 lay judge trials that had been held as of March 19, decisions were reached in about 64 percent of them within three days of the first hearings, and 97 percent ended within five days. While this shows that lay judge trials proceeded quickly, various opinions were heard from lay judges at press conferences after the rulings.

""I've been told there's a pile of documents on my desk at the office. Three days is the most I can take off work," a male company employee in his 50s said after he took a part in a lay judge trial at the Chiba District Court for three days in January.

"On the other hand, a woman who participated in a lay judge trial at the Mito District Court for two days in February asked whether two days was enough to consider whether a person is guilty of the crime he or she is accused of."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (3/31/2010), Link to article (last visited 4/1/2010)

1 comment:

karolina said...

Fascinating stuff. Squeamish? Bah. I read it while I was eating breakfast. Disgusting and morid..But fascinating.

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