Comment on Judgment of Acquittal in Saiban-in Trial
Yesterday, judges of a Saiban-in (lay judge) trial held in the Chiba District Court handed down an acquittal to a defendant who was charged with violating the Stimulants Control Act and the Customs Act.
Since the implementation of the Saiban-in system on May 21, 2009, this is the first case in which an acquittal has been handed down for all acts charged. There was one case heard by the Tachikawa Branch of the Tokyo District Court, where a partial acquittal was handed down on June 9, 2010. In that case, the defendant was found not guilty for the fraud among the acts constituting the offence charged, which were theft, robbery causing injury, and fraud. However, in yesterday’s case in the Chiba District Court the defendant was acquitted on all charges. The judges reportedly pointed out the fact that the defendant easily agreed to have his can inspected by x-ray when asked by a customs officer. For that reason, the judges could hardly determine that the plea of the defendant was incredible as the prosecutor claimed and concluded that “we cannot say, according to our commonsense, that there is no doubt that the defendant knew illegal drugs were hidden in the can.”
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has been advocating the importance of the Saiban-in system from the viewpoint that citizens can contribute to “better criminal trials” by participating in the hearing and deliberation of criminal trials because citizens have diverse knowledge and experiences and their decisions would reflect their commonsense and adhere to the principles of a presumption of innocence, etc.
Aiming to more firmly establish the Saiban-in system in Japan, the JFBA will review the operation of the system and make recommendations to improve it as well as revise the system itself in order to cultivate an environment where citizens are able to serve as Saiban-in without any difficulties. In addition, the JFBA will enhance its effort to provide training programs for its member attorneys and share experiences in order to improve their defense skills for Saiban-in trials.
June 23, 2010
Japan Federation of Bar Associations