Lay Judges to Join Bench in Japan

Will citizens temper Japan's courts, where 99.9% are found guilty?
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2007 8:38 AM CDT
Similar programs utilizing ordinary citizens as judges have been implemented by Germany and Norway. It "assures a more open and transparent process," according to Norwegian Public Prosecutor Linda Myrdal.   (Index Open)
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(Newser) – Japan will give citizens the gavel in an effort to counteract its judicial system’s prejudice for presuming guilt. Six citizens and three trained jurists will sit on criminal cases, and the majority will rule, Bloomberg reports. The new system follows a clamor of criticism about forced confessions, inhumane treatment of death row inmates and Japan’s 99.9% conviction rate.

The UN, the Council of Europe and several human rights groups have all taken note, and even the island nation’s bar association has called for a moratorium on executions until action is taken. A top Supreme Court official said lay judges would lower the conviction rate, but some activists were unsure. In a mock trial to test the system, citizens wanted to lengthen the offender’s sentence.