National / Crime & Legal

Two men indicted for allegedly intimidating lay judges in yakuza trial

Kyodo

Prosecutors indicted two men Friday on suspicion of intimidating lay judges during the trial of a senior member of a yakuza crime syndicate in the first such charges since Japan’s lay judge system was introduced in 2009.

The two are Toshimi Kusumoto, a former gang member associated with the defendant’s Kudo-kai crime syndicate based in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, and Kimikazu Nakamura, a company employee and former classmate of the defendant.

Kusumoto, 40, and Nakamura, 41, allegedly made comments to the lay judges to pressure them into finding in favor of the defendant.

According to the indictment, Kusumoto and Nakamura approached the two lay judges on a street near the Fukuoka District Court’s Kokura branch on May 10, when the first trial hearing for the senior gang member was held. His trial for attempted murder ended May 12.

Kusumoto allegedly said to the lay judges, “The sentence has already been decided in a way, right?” while Nakamura allegedly said, “I remember your faces” and “Thank you in advance.”

The two were arrested on June 17 on suspicion of violating the lay judge law, which can result in a prison term of up to two years or a fine of up to ¥200,000.

Also Friday, the prosecutors requested the court discontinue the gangster’s trial under the lay judge system.

The system, under which three professional and six lay judges hear serious criminal cases such as murder, started in 2009 to better reflect citizens’ views in criminal court proceedings.