Sunlight is the best disinfectant
Excellent news today – there has been a decline in the number of murder indictments issued by Japanese prosecutors since the debut of the saibanin system (lay judge) in Japan. I predicted that this would happen, and sure enough, it has. The Japan Times reports that:
In 2006, 1,769 murder cases were handed over to prosecutors. Of them, 734, or 41 percent, led to indictments on the charge. Four years later, the rate dropped by 15 points to 26 percent, with only 424 cases out of 1,619 resulting in murder indictments.
Critics have argued on many occasions that the Japanese judiciary has long been a rubber stamp for the procuracy, leading to impossibly near-perfect conviction rates. Now that the saibanin have reported for work, the prosecutors have to think long and hard about the charges they bring before the court lest they start tarnishing their perfect record! I predict that there will be some fairly fundamental changes to the Japanese criminal justice system over the next 5 years.
…[A] senior official in the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office rejected this assessment but did not offer a better explanation. “It’s unlikely prosecutors are adopting lighter charges because of the launch of the lay judge system,” the official said, adding the reason behind the drop in murder indictments remains unknown.
Uh huh… To be fair, the counter-point to the above is impressively argued by David T. Johnson in “The Japanese Way of Justice: Prosecuting Crime in Japan”. Strongly recommended reading.