‘Remorse’ shouldn’t be a factor

Taragi, Kumamoto

Two articles printed in The Japan Times in less than a month show a very troubling feature of the Japanese criminal justice system.

In the March 5 front-page article “Minor denies slaying woman after Tokyo concert,” we read that the three professional and six lay judges are urged by prosecutors to consider the brutality of the crime and that the defendant has shown “no sign of remorse.”

In the Feb. 20 Kyodo article “Mom still struggles with son’s execution,” we read that Yukinori Matsuda, who was hanged in September for a home break-in and double murder in 2003, “did not show remorse and the [Kumamoto District] court had no choice but to impose capital punishment.”

Are we to assume that the level of remorse shown by the accused affects the sentence sought and the punishment received? Nothing other than legally obtained, empirical evidence should ever affect an investigation or a trial.

Emotion has no place in the courtroom.

As it currently stands, defendants appear trapped in a Catch-22 by the police and prosecution: Show remorse and receive a lighter sentence, but by showing remorse you all but admit guilt.

So, how does an innocent person who is wrongfully accused navigate this system? If the Govinda Prasad Mainali case is any indication, by spending a very long time behind bars.

joseph jaworski
taragi, kumamoto

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • 151E

    Who is to say that emotion has no place in the courtroom? Courts and laws are human constructs, and vary along a broad spectrum amongst different societies. In the West, court proceedings are largely about establishing guilt or innocence (even so many courts allow victim impact statements and the defendant is often allowed the right of allocution), but in many traditional societies court proceedings (or their functional tribal equivalent) are often also deeply concerned with restoring social bonds and norms.

    Remorse is something every parent looks for when scolding and disciplining a child; it is an important part of socialization. Likewise, in a criminal case, genuine remorse can help to differentiate between candidates for rehabilitation and dangerous psychopaths.

    However, I do readily concede that in a legal system that seems to presume guilt and favour the prosecution, the innocent find themselves in a seriously unjust and compromised position. This, however, does not argue against consideration of remorse in sentencing, but only serves to highlight the vital importance of the presumption of innocence.