Posted by debito on November 24th, 2006
Hello Blog. Forwarding from a reporter friend. Comment is his. Debito
Not sure what to make of this. Should I be dissapointed that they chose a
foreigner as the defendant in their mock trial or pleased that the jury
didn’t necessarily lock him up and throw away the key just because he
wasn’t Japanese….. Anyway, for your amusement and education:
Mock trial under lay judge system held in Osaka
by Keiji Hirano
OSAKA, Nov. 23 KYODO
Citizen judges on Thursday came out with a mixed verdict on a Briton,
who was indicted for bodily injury resulting in death, at a mock trial in
Paul Lennon, 36-year-old English teacher, stood trial at the mimic
court, sponsored by the Osaka Bar Association, on the assumption that he
kicked a Japanese man because he thought the man had assaulted a woman,
although the man was just caring for his drunken girlfriend. The man died
after falling down on a street and hitting his head.
The mock trial was held prior to the introduction of the citizen judge
system in Japan by 2009, under which professional judges and lay judges
will try such serious crimes as murder, robbery resulting in death,
injuries leading to death and arson, in order to enable the public to
understand the planned system.
It will be the first attempt in Japan to enable ordinary citizens to
be involved in the judicial system.
During the mock trial, the prosecution side said Lennon, a muscled
grade-holder in karate, had kicked the victim, who was much smaller than
himself, without hearing what he had to say in order to chastise him and
that it was an excessive offense to target his face. The prosecutors
demanded a six-year prison term.
The defense lawyers argued that Lennon’s act was self-defense as the
drunken woman said to him ”help me” in English while the victim was
raising his arms in a fighting pose.
They also insisted he had kicked the man in a restrained manner. ”As
a result, the victim did not sustain any injuries to his face. It was
unfortunate the victim died but the defendant is not a criminal,” the
After hearing the testimonies of the girlfriend and another witness of
the incident, six lay judges — actual ordinary citizens and students who
did not know the contents of the mock trial beforehand — discussed
together with three judges — actual lawyers of the association — about
whether the defendant was guilty.
A citizen judge said, ”I understand the principle of presumed
innocence, but I tend to be attracted to what the prosecutors argued,”
while another lay judge, commenting on the girlfriend’s remarks that the
victim did not raise his arms and the defendant kicked him suddenly, said
it was not trustworthy as she was drunk.
Some citizen judges argued the defendant’s act was excessive as he
should have realized its danger as a karate master, while others said it
was not excessive, based on testimony of the witness that the victim
collapsed dizzily, arguing that he would have fallen fast if the karate
grade-holder had kicked him hard.
While the citizen judges did not reach a consensus, Takashi Maruta, a
professor at Kwansei Gakuin University law school, said after observing the
conference, ”The mock trial showed ordinary citizens can develop
reasonable and persuasive debates.”
Under the citizen judge system, three professional judges plus six lay
judges would decide by a majority vote whether a defendant is guilty or
not, and pass sentence in a guilty verdict. At least one professional judge
and one lay judge must vote on the majority side.
Judicial circles — professional judges, prosecutors and lawyers –
are now holding such mock trials as part of their efforts to make the new
system functional and effective.
A symposium followed the mock trial on Thursday, in which a judge from
Hawaii and two people from Australia and France, who had once served as
jurors, shared their experiences with the audience.
Both Malcolm Knox from Sydney and Francoise de Vaulgrenant from Paris
said they had initially been reluctant to sit in courts as jurors but they
later found it a ”unique” and ”fascinating” experience.
While jurors must have been prejudiced initially, ”we became
impartial” after entering the jury room, said Knox. He said he had doubts
if he could work with others whom he did not know, but that he found it
wonderful to work with various kinds of people and he could foster trust in
other citizens after serving as a juror.
Vaulgrenant shared the view, calling the change in the jurors
”magic,” and told the Japanese audience ”don’t miss it” if selected to
be a citizen judge.
Lay judges in Japan would be chosen at random from lists of eligible
voters in a general election for the House of Representatives, regardless
of their views, faith or abilities.
Sabrina Shizue McKenna, a judge from Hawaii, said 99 percent of jurors
in her court said it was a great experience, although they too had been
hesitant about serving as jurors at first.
Speaking in Japanese, McKenna said, ”Life experiences of ordinary
people are much more important than professional knowledge of judges (in
discussing legal cases).”
Yuji Shiratori, a law professor at Hokkaido University who attended
the symposium, said that while introduction of a lay judge system has a
symbolic meaning of citizen’s participation in the judicial system, it is
also expected to improve overall criminal justice by exposing investigation
and defense processes to the public.
As lay judges will deliberate on serious crimes, which may lead to
capital punishment, Shiratori said, ”It is likely that not a few lay
judges will be hesitant to be involved in giving a death penalty, and the
introduction will be a good opportunity to stir national debate over
The lay judge system will be reviewed three years after its
introduction, and Shiratori said he expects the majority verdict to be
revised to a two-thirds or three-quarters decision in the future to ensure
more legitimacy during the review period or even before the 2009
==November 23, 2006 21:49:55 Kyodo News
COMMENT: What odd things make the news… With all the events jockeying for your attention, why so much of this highly-contrived fake court case? And I fail to see how this is any harbinger of the future of Japan’s upcoming jury system. Surely they could have come up with a better issue to put before a jury? Debito
UPDATE NOV 27, 2006:
(from friend MS)
For your information, this would be a rerun of the actual trial of one Steve or Stephen Bellamy, who was indicted for manslaughter in Chiba around 1982 or thereabouts. His appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court.
He never spent any time in prison but had to pay whopping compensation to the dead man’s family. The whole thing was just a sad misunderstanding, the man was not assaulting the woman — she was just drunk and acting in an obnoxious manner, but Steve went galloping to her rescue like a knight in shining armor. I think he eventually moved to Hawaii. Back in the days of 300bps acoustic modems, Bellamy had one of the first computer bulletin boards in Japan, called Kanto Central.
Unfortunately there’s nothing in Google re this case. Anyone else here 25 years or so ago who remembers any details? MS
COURTESY OF REPORTER FRIEND MW
Google might not have anything but Lexis Nexis does! Sorry for the caps….
Copyright 1984 Kyodo News Service
Japan Economic Newswire
NOVEMBER 22, 1984, THURSDAY
LENGTH: 311 words
DATELINE: TOKYO, NOV 22
APPEAL COURT REVERSE TOKYO HIGH COURT FOUND A BRITISH BUSINESS CONSULTANT GUILTY OF ASSAULT RESULTING IN DEATH STEMMING FROM AN ALTERCATION ON A MATSUDO STREET THREE YEARS AGO.
JOHN STEVEN BELLAMY, 34, WAS SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS IN PRISON, BUT SENTENCE WAS STAYED AND BELLAMY PUT ON THREE YEARS PROBATION DUE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE INDICENT.
THE CHARGE AROSE AFTER BELLAMY, A THIRD-DAN (LEVEL) KARATE EXPERT, BECAME INVOLVED IN WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS A DOMESTIC QUARREL IN MATSUDO BETWEEN YASUTOSHI HARIMA, THEN 31, AND A DRUNKEN WOMAN.
DURING LOWER COURT TESTIMONY, THE COURT WAS TOLD BELLAMY APPROACHED THE PAIR AND TRIED TO MEDIATE IN THE SITUATION, BUT WHEN HARIMA ASSUMED A BOXING STANCE AND THREATENED TO STRIKE THE BRITON, BELLAMY STRUCK OUT WITH A KARATE KICK WHICH RESULTED IN HARIMA’S DEATH.
HARIMA APPARENTLY STRUCK HIS HEAD ON A CONCRETE CURB AFTER THE KICK AND DIED FROM HEAD INJURIES.
THE CHIBA COURT RULED BELLAMY INNOCENT BECAUSE THE KICK WAS EXECUTED IN SELF DEFENSE, BUT THE TOKYO HIGH COURT SAID THE DIFFERENCE IN SIZE BETWEEN THE TWO MEN, HARIMA WAS 160 CM TALL AND 60 KILOGRAMS WHILE BELLAMY IS 180 CM AND 80 KILOGRAMS, AND THE EXPERT NATURE OF BELLAMY’S ATTACK RENDERED A RULING OF SELF DEFENSE INVALID.
THE HIGH COURT ADDED THAT THE KARATE MOVE WAS OF SUCH A SKILLFUL NATURE THAT AN ORDINARY PERSON COULD NOT BE EXPECTED TO DEFEND HIMSELF FROM IT.
IRONICALLY, THE SITUATION WHICH PROMPTED THE ALTERCATION WAS NOT AS THE BRITON HAD ASSUMED.
HARIMA WAS ACTUALLY TRYING TO COMFORT A FRIEND’S WIFE WHO HAD BECOME DRUNK AND WAS NOT ATTACKING THE WOMAN AS BELLAMY BELIEVED AT THE TIME.
BELLANY, VISIBLY PALE AND SHAKEN BY THE VERDICT, SAID HE HAD DONE “JUSTICE” AT THE TIME AND FELT THE HIGH COURT RULING “CRAZY, JUST CRAZY.”
THE HIGH COURT DECISION WILL BE APPEALLED TO THE SUPREME COURT, BELLAMY’S LAWYER INDICATED.
LOAD-DATE: Load-Date=NOVEMBER 22, 1984
I’ve been following your postings and articles over the years since we last exchanged mail. Generally (though not always) I’ve been in agreement. Hats off to the wide scope of your concerns and the sheer energy you bring to bear on them.
As for the mock trial in Osaka — you may know it is based on one of the most famous cases in the region involving a defendant named Steve Bellamy. The incident took place about a quarter of a century ago and was widely publicized here. I don’t have the dates or other details locked in my memory and my clippings for that period are not sorted.
The Bellamy case raises the sort of issues that case study textbook writers love. In the US today (possibly even at the time), Bellamy would have won in criminal court then lost in civil court — like Peairs in the Hattori case. The mock trial, like the case it was based on, was not about nationality. The issues are precisely those addressed by the jurors. From a legal education point of view, the Osaka Bar Association knew what it were doing.
For what it’s worth. You have my permission to use what I have written here any way you wish.
Keep up the good fight.