Lay judges will be excluded from handling complex cases requiring “very long” deliberations to spare them from such onerous burdens, based on a policy draft issued by a Justice Ministry panel.
The panel made the recommendation Friday in light of the Aum Shinrikyo trials and other cases that have required years of deliberations to settle.
Trials involving the founder and senior members of the doomsday cult, which carried out the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, have taken years to reach judgment, and the recent capture of the cult’s last three fugitives is setting the courts up for another round of trials.
After receiving the panel’s finalized proposals in June, the ministry will start the process of revising the lay judge legislation.
The draft, among other improvement measures, says that potential lay judges will not be called to serve even if they are dealing with the aftermath of major natural disasters.
It meanwhile says lay judges must continue upholding their duty to ensure the confidentiality of the court system and to participate in cases involving crimes punishable by death, to allay concerns over capital punishment rulings being made by a single person.
The lay judge system debuted in May 2009 to inject the common sense of ordinary citizens into in court trials. Under the system, six citizens randomly selected from the list of eligible voters examine murder and other serious criminal cases at district courts together with three professional judges. They also participate in the sentencing.