Judicial reform advocates yesterday protested the legislature’s exclusion from its extraordinary session agenda of a bill to implement a jury system, while including a rival proposal for a lay judge system.
Members of the Judicial Reform Foundation and the Taiwan Jury Association were among the protesters outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei demanding a “twin track” solution, in which the government would test both systems for two to three years to determine which works best and garners the most public support.
“To have a jury system is to truly respect the wishes of the people in a democracy. Our government, in a push to include citizen participation in criminal prosecutions, should not reject a jury system to focus only on a lay judge system, which is favored by judges,” foundation chairman Lin Yung-sung (林永頌) said.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
“In doing so, the government and judiciary are depriving the citizens of their right to choose a jury system,” Lin added.
The Judicial Yuan’s bill for a lay judge system proposes three judges and six lay judges jointly presiding over criminal trials where defendants face more than 10 years in prison if convicted or are accused of intentional homicide.
Association founder Jerry Cheng (鄭文龍) said that professional judges would retain real authority and decisionmaking power under the system, calling the bill “fake judicial reform.”
The jury system is the mainstream judicial trial system in 52 nations, including the US and the UK, he said.
“It prevents miscarriages of justice, cuts down on corrupt judges taking bribes and curtails political interference in rulings,” Cheng said.
New Power Party caucus whip Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) also attended the protest in support of a jury system.
“Granting citizens the right to participate in trials has been at the core of the judicial reform movement in the past two decades. However, the proposed bill as presented by the Judicial Yuan excludes the jury system,” he said.
“Is it because the Judicial Yuan does not want citizens to be involved in rulings? We do not want justice system officials to hijack our nation. It is wrong,” Chiu said.
Taiwan People’s Party caucus whip Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) also endorsed the twin track solution.
“Judicial reform should not be political or a confrontation between ideologies. This issue should go to the public for discussion and to solicit opinions,” she said.
“Citizen participation in rulings is an important step in the judicial reform movement, so we believe the legislature should not deliberate on this bill at the extraordinary session. It should take it up during the regular legislative session,” she added.
Lin said that groups would hold sit-in protests and other actions throughout the extraordinary session, which is to end on July 22.
On Friday and Saturday, they are to hold evening rallies on a street next to the Legislative Yuan, and on Sunday, they are to march to the Presidential Office Building, Lin added.
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