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2008年11月24日 (月)

裁判員制度 混乱なくスタートできるのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 23, 2008)

Efforts needed before lay judge system launch

裁判員制度 混乱なくスタートできるのか(1123日付・読売社説)

The lay judge system will be launched in less than six months. It is important, therefore, to relieve any concerns the public may have before the system goes into effect.


The new system will be applied for trials of murder and other serious criminal cases for which indictments are brought on May 21 and after.


People who are randomly selected as lay judge candidates will soon receive a notice informing them that they have been placed on the list of candidates. About 295,000, or one out of about 350 people aged 20 or older, will be selected as candidates. Lay judges will be chosen from this pool of candidates next year.


Before a trial opens, a district court will ask between 50 and 100 candidates to appear before the court so that six lay judges can be chosen from among them. Candidates with jobs may be worried about such an unexpected summons. The psychological burden that the candidates will have to endure is certainly heavy.


Lay judges need support

The lay judge law prohibits candidates from disclosing their selection as lay judge candidates to all but a few people, including their family members and company superiors. But this rule apparently is poorly understood and seems bound to cause confusion.


The presiding judge will approve or disapprove a request by a lay judge candidate to be excused from serving as a lay judge. The judge also will perform the key role of explaining to lay judges in plain language the points of contention in a trial. To ensure uniform treatment of lay judges, how presiding judges should interact with them needs to be reexamined.


Lay judges will have to make difficult decisions--finding a defendant guilty or not guilty and choosing between a sentence of death or life imprisonment, for example.


The public's low level of awareness concerning participation in court trials has been pointed out, but it is understandable in some ways that ordinary people, who have little legal knowledge, would shrink from taking the heavy responsibility of judging a defendant.


Some lay judges could be traumatized upon hearing dreadful details of a crime scene and seeing related photos. They also will feel under heavy and enduring pressure in the face of the threat of punishment for leaking the content of discussions held prior to deciding a sentence.


The Supreme Court plans to establish an around-the-clock telephone consultation section that will provide psychological support to lay judges. It is indispensable to develop a carefully considered system to support lay judges.


Hearings must be rigorous

In preparation for the start of the lay judge system, efforts have been made to realize trials that are easy to understand and speedy. A typical example is the introduction of pretrial summary procedures during which judges, prosecutors and lawyers narrow down the points of contention before the first hearing of a trial.


However, trial deliberations should not become perfunctory as a result of excessive priority being placed on simplicity and speed. The pretrial summary procedures also need to be examined.


Hironobu Takesaki, chief judge of the Tokyo High Court, who was involved in working out the lay judge system, will become chief justice of the Supreme Court. Whether he can launch the lay judge system without a problem and get it off the ground will soon be tested.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 23, 2008)

200811230223  読売新聞)


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