Lay judges deny media influenced Ichihashi decision

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff Writer

The six lay judges who participated in Tatsuya Ichihashi’s trial on Thursday denied that the heavy media coverage of the high profile case affected their decision and stressed that they based their ruling strictly on the evidence presented at the trial.

The six, who are all male and aged between their 30s and 60s, also said that while they took into account the views of Lindsay Ann Hawker’s parents, who demanded the death sentence, they were not swayed by their plea and decided on a life term based on the evidence.

“From previous media coverage, I admit I was slightly prejudiced to begin with (toward Ichihashi.) I thought he was a monster for raping, murdering and abandoning the victim’s body,” said lay judge No. 3, who is in his 40s and from Mobara, Chiba Prefecture.

“But because I had such prejudice I told myself that I must be fair, and tried very hard to look at the evidence from both sides.”

According to law, the lay judges are not allowed to disclose details of their deliberations but are allowed to voice their impressions after serving in a case.

The lay judges said there were many occasions when they felt Ichihashi did not fully disclose all the details in court.

“This was a case that took place behind closed doors, and only the defendant could talk about it. But there were times when (the bruises and other injuries on) the victim’s body revealed everything that happened” and his testimony was not consistent with the evidence, said lay judge No. 6, who is in his 50s. “I wish the defendant could have revealed everything to the court,” he said.

When asked about his impression of Ichihashi, lay judge No. 5, in his 30s, said he appeared timid and naive.

Another lay judge in his 30s, who also attended the news conference, said that he was unable to fathom Ichihashi.

“When he was being questioned, he cried and showed his emotions. But at other times he was also like a robot, and I thought he was very cold,” he said. “I kept watching him throughout the trial to see if I could read his thoughts from his expressions, but I never managed.”