Friday, December 29, 2006

Lay Participation in Trials: Diverging Trends

The U.K. has been cutting back on trial by jury for years. Japan, however, seems to be going in a different direction: it is reintroducing a mixed court system for some criminal cases. See Robert E. Precht, "Japan, the Jury," New York Times Section A, Column 2, Editorial Desk, p. 31 (Dec. 1, 2006).


Beginning in 2009, Japan will institute a jury system called saiban-in. Juries consisting of three law-trained judges and six citizens chosen by lottery will decide criminal cases by majority vote. Japan had an American-style jury system for 15 years, but it was abolished by Japan's military government in 1943. Since then, verdicts have been decided by three-judge panels, leaving citizens with no voice in a system in which virtually all criminal trials end in a conviction. ...


According to surveys conducted by a sociologist, Hiroshi Fukurai, the prospect of jury service intimidates many Japanese; other polls show 70 percent of them don't want to be on juries. ...

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