Kyodo: 2 NJ defendants among first 13 new lay jury cases


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Hi Blog.  Very simple thought about this:  That was quick!   Two days into the new system, and two of the first thirteen indictments are foreign?  That works out to a fifteen percent NJ crime rate.  Comments?  Mine are here, regarding the system before the lay jurors came about.  Debito in Sapporo


Two foreign defendants among first cases to be tried under new lay jury system


Prosecutors nationwide indicted on Friday nine criminal suspects, including two murder suspects, to be tried under the newly introduced lay jury system, bringing the total number of such cases to 13. A day after the introduction of the system, the two murder suspects were indicted by Tokyo and Fukuoka prosecutors. Suspects in other serious crimes such as robbery resulting in injuries or attempted arson were indicted the previous day, but murder suspects were not included.

Also included in the 13 cases were a 21-year-old male university student of Mexican nationality and a 29-year-old female office worker of Canadian nationality, who were both indicted by Chiba prosecutors over drug smuggling. Lay jury trials for the 13 cases can begin as early as late July if each case has little to argue over and its pretrial agreement procedures end swiftly. Under the lay jury system that kicked off Thursday, jurors will engage in the process of determining the verdict, and in the case of a guilty verdict, what kind of sentence the person should be given.


12 comments on “Kyodo: 2 NJ defendants among first 13 new lay jury cases

  • I guess this is one of the few instances where foreigners are not happy about being ‘included’.

  • Perhaps they want to do a couple of wet runs with interpreters to see how their system works with non-Japanese-speaking defendants. Hard to say. Having seen judges in action, though, I think I would rather have a panel of random civilians decide my fate.

    By the way, “lay jury?” Shouldn’t they have said “lay judge?” A jury is lay by definition…

  • My supposition would be that, given the system is new, they are “trying it out”. Given the particular “challenges” of trying foreign defendants, they’re probably keen to see how it works out — translation, bias, whatever. Probably the same reason there’s a couple of murder suspects in this batch (which, of course, makes it a 15% murder rate, too).

  • Michael Weidner says:

    My big question is….who is this Jury made up of? If the law requires that it be a “Jury of their peers” as it usually is defined in Western Nations….does that mean that at least a portion of the Jury is NJ? Do NJ even qualify for Jury Duty here?

    After seeing some of the great biases of this Nation (from police to even just regular citizens), I would find it hard to believe that any Jury solely made up of Japanese would be impartial towards a NJ defendant. I could be wrong, but all the expereiences I’ve had personally have led me to believe that the would be fairly biased.

  • Unfortunately, if the gaijin conviction rate drops below the current 98-99%, this will be seen as “bias”.

    “But wait!” you say, “What if the conviction rate of Japanese drops by the same percentage? Then it wouldn’t actually be bias.”

    …then you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the portrayal of crime statistics regarding gaijin by the J government and media. Such comparisons are not done.

    Similarly, if the Japanese defendant conviction rate drops to 85%, and the gaijin conivction rate only drops to 95%, I fully expect alarmist reports about the increasing flood of “jury mistakes in gaijin cases” where “obviously guilty because we play ominous music during the report” gaijin are being freed to “commit further crimes”.

  • When Japan used to have a proper jury system back in the 1920s, strange how the conviction rate was “roughly” the same as Western democracy systems, around 85%. No alarms bells rang then…oh wait, no mass invasion of pesky criminals over here to do their dirty work, nor mass media coverage to support any notion the Govt wants!

    — Source on the 85%?

  • John K,
    imagen if all the crimes, such as rape (or, at least near rape), weren’t left out and actually were made into reports. The stats would be even more staggering. Have friends, and friends of friends, with stories of being just waved away after being assaulted in what would likely have turned into rapes.
    I think there’s even pages on it here.

    Anyways, to continue but lean slightly back on topic:

    As a mean to waste time at work I’ve compiled a list of all the articles regarding violent crime in Japan I could find. By publisher.
    I’ve only done so for a few months,
    but judging by the numbers it’s hard to figure out where those yearly official ones comes from.
    On top of that, obviously newspapers don’t report every single crime either. Makes me wonder if the reported numbers means anything at all or just false numbers to support the idea that Japan is a peaceful country with more peacefull citizens then in that big lump called gaikoku.

    — Need some stats if we’re going to make these claims.

  • Wikipedia: “この制度によって484件が陪審に付され(うち24件は陪審の更新によるもので、実質事件数は460件)、うち81件に無罪判決が出た

    So there was an 82% conviction rate under the old jury system. Not bad.

    Slight tangent: In US federal courts, juries now convict far more often than judges do, as per this article, which chalks it up to the presence of minimum sentencing guidelines which judges know but jurors cannot. Very different from the proposed Japanese system, where judges and jurors are expected to operate with the same information.

    Less slight tangent: While everyone freaks out over the perceived unfairness of Japanese juries, we should all keep in mind that this is a fairly internationalized society we lived in, as evidenced by the fact that we are all here. Your jury pool contains many people with foreign spouses/lovers/co-workers, many people who have lived abroad and many people who go to eikaiwa schools. So it isn’t going to be a show trial just because the faces are all Japanese. I would also point out that your judge pool would contain a far lower percentage of individuals who have lived overseas or have foreign connections; the people who become judges usually do so as a career, after going through an elite domestic education and a rigorous examination process that leaves no time or need for foreign relations.

  • “From 1928~43 The annual number of cases tried by jury was greatest in 1929, when 143 cases were put to juries. The number dropped to sixty-six the next year and decreased annually until, in 1942, only two jury trials were held. A total of 611 defendants chose jury trials during the fifteen years the system operated. Of these, ninety-four were acquitted…”

    L.W.Kiss, Reviving the Criminal Jury in Japan, (article is also available at

    — Thanks for this. Wonder why so few chose jury trials.

  • I haven’t read much formal literature on the subject, but Wikipedia (same article linked above) offers a few plausible theories:


  • I just thought it was worth noting that saying this indicates a “15 percent” non Japanese rate is a bit misleading. The numbers are just way too small to be making any sort of conclusions about the new system. For all the speculation about possible motivations being made, it could very well be simple coincidence that 2 of the first 13 cases involve foreign accused.

    If the number remains 15 percent after a couple hundred cases have gone to trial I’ll be convinced that this is something significant, but not until then.

    For those interested, the juries will be composed of 3 lay assessors and 3 professional judges. Other than the fact that it involves members of the public in the process of judging a case, the system bears little resemblance to a “jury” as that term is understood in the Anglo-American world. I am told it is a bit more closely related to the German system, though I haven’t researched this.

    The law on the Lay Assessor system has been translated into English and is available here:

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