Robbery compromise?: five years


A Chinese visa overstayer was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday at the Tokyo District Court by a group of lay and professional judges for robbery resulting in injury at a convenience store in 2001.

Prosecutors had demanded a seven-year prison term, while the defense lawyers argued 3 1/2 years were appropriate. The trial was the second involving lay judges at the Tokyo District Court since the system was launched in May.

The court said Tian Changxi, 35, had committed a dangerous crime out of selfish motives, and hurt the victim both physically and mentally. Although the crime was not carefully planned and Tian had failed to actually snatch any money from the store, there was no room for sympathy, the court said.

Tian was convicted of trying to rob the store in October 2001, and in the process wounding a 19-year-old part-time worker with a hammer.

The victim had fought back, and Tian fled the scene without taking any money from the cash register. The victim was hit in the head and required four stitches.

During the three-day trial, four women and two men served as lay judges along with three professionals. A Chinese language court interpreter translated proceedings.

After the trial, the lay judges, who asked not to be named, told the press that the new duty was a valuable experience. They were able to understand proceedings and deliberated together with support from their professional counterparts, they said.

“When the presiding judge was reading the sentencing, I felt that I may have changed this man’s life,” said a lay judge in his 30s after the ruling.

A lay judge in her 50s said that although she felt it was a good experience, the responsibility was more serious than she had previously imagined.

“There are many people around me who say they don’t want to take part, but I want them to know that it’s a good experience,” she said.