Reestablishing Jury Trials in Japan: Foundational Lessons from the Russian Experience
2 Creighton Int'l & Comp. L.J. 100
28 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2013
Date Written: May 14, 2012
This Article examines the foundational and systemic impact of Japan's transition to a lay participation jury in an inquisitorial system accustomed to near-perfect conviction rates. Part I of the Article discusses Japan's Act Concerning Participation of Lay Assessors in Criminal Trials, the statute outlining the criteria for participation in the jury trial process as well as the responsibilities of lay assessors. Next, for purposes of comparison, Part II explores Russia's transition to a lay jury system in the early 1990s. Russia's "experiment" with jury trials is a very instructive comparative assessment because, like Japan, Russia reestablished jury trials after a sweeping reform of its judge dominated criminal justice system with near universal conviction rates. However, Russia's revival of lay participation in the criminal justice system was short-lived, and a mere fifteen years later jury trials were eliminated for most cases primarily due to a perception that leniency by jurors was resulting in excessive acquittals. The political and social dynamics that led to Russia's shift away from citizen participation in the criminal justice system is a cautionary tale that is discussed with an eye toward analyzing whether Japan's new system might suffer a similar fate.
Keywords: Japan, Jury Trials, Criminal Justice, Russia, Comparative
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