Lay judges convict 99%; few shirk duty


Staff Writer

Last year saw 8,673 citizens take part as lay judges, serving an average of 3.8 days, slightly longer than the 3.3 days in 2009, according to data recently released by the Supreme Court.

According to 2010 data released Thursday, of all lay judges and prospective candidates summoned to appear for selection, 80.6 percent turned up to fulfill their duty, reflecting a high attendance rate.

The top court released full-year data on lay judge trials for the first time since the system began in May 2009.

2010 saw 1,506 defendants tried in lay judge trials, and only two were acquitted — representing a conviction rate exceeding 99 percent.

By category of offenses, the largest number of trials, at 393, involved robberies resulting in injury, followed by 357 for murder and 131 for arson.

The defendants in the lay judge trials included at least 120 foreign nationals who required the use of interpreters, the data showed.

Among the foreign defendants, 52 were charged with stimulant control law violations, including smuggling, selling, possession and illegal use.

Because the total number of the lay judge trials for this drug charge was 108 last year, foreign defendants made up 48 percent of them, the court said.

Although the court data failed to include a breakdown of the cases by nationality, these numbers were deduced based on the interpretation services that were required to conduct the proceedings.

Of the 120 foreign nationals who required language interpretation, 30 were Chinese. Of them, 23 defendants spoke Mandarin, while four defendants required Cantonese and three needed Taiwan-Chinese language interpreters.

English interpretation was needed for 17 defendants and Portuguese for an equal number, followed by 16 Persian and 12 Tagalog speakers.

The rest of the languages used by the foreign defendants were Korean, Spanish, French, Russian, Vietnamese, Italian, Nepalese, Punjabi and Malay, according to the data.

Under the lay judge trials, six lay people randomly chosen among voters sit together with three professional judges to try heinous crimes, such as murder, rape, arson, robbery and violations of drug laws.