Lay judges hear first case against foreigner

by Setsuko Kamiya

SAITAMA — The first lay judge trial with a non-Japanese defendant started Tuesday with a 20-year-old Filipino pleading guilty to attacking two men on separate occasions in December, when he was a minor, and taking their money and other belongings.

Two men and four women were chosen by lottery from the 45 people who reported at the Saitama District Court for lay judge duty, after they went through an orientation that involved a questionnaire to check their impartiality.

Two other men were chosen as alternates. The court summoned 47 people for the case.

On the first day of what was expected to be a four-day trial through Friday, the defendant, a resident of Toda, Saitama Prefecture, who works part time at a restaurant, admitted committing robbery resulting in bodily injury.

“Yes, they are correct. I am very sorry,” the man said in Japanese of the charges read against him. He then bowed to the bench.

Based on the juvenile law, The Japan Times is withholding the name of the defendant because he was a minor when the alleged crimes were committed and when he was arrested.

The presiding judge said that although the defendant speaks some Japanese, the entire session will be translated into Tagalog for his benefit.

Two Tagalog-language court interpreters attended the session and took turns translating the proceedings. The accused wore an earphone to listen to the proceedings in his native tongue.

He is accused along with two other youths of attacking a 26-year-old passerby at around 11:05 p.m. Dec. 19 on a street near JR Kita-Toda Station.

They robbed the victim of around ¥30,000 and took other belongings, including a laptop computer. The victim was allegedly punched and kicked several times, sustaining head injuries and a broken chin.

The accused and his accomplices allegedly committed a similar assault Dec. 26 on a 22-year-old man in the same area and robbed him of around ¥7,000 and belongings.

The victim suffered facial injuries that required seven stitches, according to prosecutors.

The prosecution in its opening statement said the accused, who had been a member of a local Filipino gang, had committed previous robberies and spent time in a juvenile correction center. He was on parole when he committed the two crimes.

Prosecutors said they will prove the crimes were planned and repeated, and that the aim was to rob the victims of their money.