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The Tokyo District Court conducted on Wednesday the country’s first simulated selection of lay judges by summoning randomly selected candidates for screening by a professional judge.

It was the first stage in a three-day simulation of a complete trial, including rendering a judgment.

The citizen judge system will begin for real by May 2009. Six eligible voters selected as citizen judges will hear murder and other serious criminal cases alongside three professional judges at the court of first instance.

This week’s simulation is based on a woman charged with stabbing her boyfriend to death.

Selection of the six lay judges and their substitutes started in the morning with a court clerk asking the potential participants such questions as if they have any relations with the defendant or the victim, and if someone close to them has suffered from a similar crime.

Each candidate was then called into a separate room and questioned by the presiding professional judge for about three minutes.

The trial was to get under way in the afternoon, and a ruling was slated for Friday evening. The simulation will cover regular trial proceedings, including witness examinations, deliberations between the lay and professional judges, and closing arguments by the prosecution and defense.

The Tokyo District Court started out in mid-April by sending a summons and a questionnaire to 50 people chosen at random from the employee rolls of Toyota Motor Corp., Asahi Breweries Ltd. and 18 other cooperating firms.

It summoned 20 of them after exempting others for various reasons, including having to attend an important overseas conference.

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