In 2004 the Japanese government passed a law to create a jury-like system for Japanese criminal trials. In 2008 that legislation was put into force as the saiban-in system.
Under the saiban-in system, serious criminal cases, usually murder or drug related, are subject to trials with participation from average citizens. Most of these cases are heard by a combination of 3 professional judges and 6 lay people. The judges are in charge of interpreting the law, but both judges and citizens are equally responsible for determining the important facts of the case and eventually deciding the guilt or innocence of the defendant. In addition, when a guilty verdict is reached, the lay participants will work wit the judges to determine the dependent’s sentence. Unlike criminal jury trials in some American jurisdictions, their decision can be reached by a simple majority without the need for a unanimous verdict.
If you have any questions about criminal law in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.