Japan began its first jury trial yesterday following legal reforms that aim to bring the judicial process closer to the people amid concerns about allowing jurors to hand down the death penalty.
In the first trial to employ six “lay judges,” a 72-year-old man is accused of stabbing to death a 66-year-old female South Korean neighbor.
The jurors, who were randomly selected from the pool of eligible voters, will be asked to decide not only the verdict but, if the man is convicted, also the sentence in the scheduled four-day case at the Tokyo District Court.
However, as a safeguard, at least one of three professional judges presiding over the trial must agree with the citizen-judges’ majority decisions.
A law passed in May paved the way for the reform, which seeks to give the public a greater role in a judicial process that has often been criticized as remote, complicated and out of touch with the public’s sense of justice.
The change, however, has sparked fierce criticism from some legal experts who argue that randomly selected citizens are not fit to make informed judgments in serious crime cases or decisions about a convict’s life and death.
Japan imposes the death penalty, but usually only for multiple murders. Last week three convicts were executed in Japanese prisons.
Critics also charge that prosecutors will be tempted to use graphic crime scene images as evidence to sway impressionable jurors.
Recent polls have shown that many members of the public are reluctant to be called up as jurors, which has now become a civic duty enforced with fines of up to ¥100,000 (US$1,000) for failure to show up.
Lay judges are also committed to a lifetime of secrecy on their closed-door deliberations, a vow of silence enforced by penalties of up to six months in prison or a ¥500,000 fine for violators.
Before the start of the murder trial, defense lawyer Shunji Date pledged to avoid legalistic jargon and “use language as simple as possible.”
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete