This book asks several questions: how the ex-jurors view the Japanese mixed-jury (hereafter saiban-in) system after participating in trials, how the general Japanese public views the system, whether the saiban-in system has increased trust in the Japanese justice system, and how the media have portrayed the saiban-in system. A large portion of the material has been previously published in Japanese, and in some cases in English, but much of the material will be new to the English-language audience.
Chapter 1 opens with a discussion of why the new saiban-in system was introduced and presents an overview of the contours of the system. Based on records from debates in the Justice System Reform Council, the author rejects the view that is commonly voiced by the press that the purpose of the saiban-in system was to reflect the “common sense of citizens.” Rather, he argues that the purpose was to “strengthen the popular foundation for the justice system” (p. 21). However, in this chapter, the author seems to be more interested in rebutting claims by the Japanese media and does not refer to the large body of scholarly work on this issue (e.g. Vanoverbeke 2015; Dobrovolskaia 2016; Kage 2017).
The latter half of the chapter consists of comparisons of sentencing patterns between bench trials and saiban-in trials. Using both chi-squared and F-tests, the author finds statistically significant differences in the two types of trials for attempted murder, injury resulting in death, and robbery resulting in injury. Overall, the author does not uncover substantial differences in sentencing patterns between bench trials and saiban-in trials.
Chapter 2 consists of two parts. The first half of the chapter reports results from the surveys of ex-saiban-in that have been conducted by the courts. Prior to the introduction of the new system, observers had voiced concerns as to whether the saiban-in would be able to understand the legal-technical details that are needed to make decisions on verdict and sentencing. In addition, because Japan adopted the mixed, rather than the pure, jury system, concerns had also been raised as to whether the saiban-in would feel comfortable speaking up in the presence of professional judges. The surveys reveal that, contrary to these concerns, ex-saiban-in have found the trials easy to understand and that they had felt comfortable speaking up in the discussions. These findings parallel those by Ibusuki (2010) and Kage (2017), among others. The second half of the chapter draws on an original public-opinion survey conducted by the author and assesses how different personality types affect individuals’ willingness to participate in the saiban-in trials as well as judgments regarding sentencing severity. The author finds that positive affirmation of freedom and stable tendency were positively related to respondents’ willingness to participate in saiban-in trials. In addition, several of the Big Five personality types, such as openness to experience and conscientiousness, have a statistically significant impact over sentencing severity, although the effects were weak.
Chapter 3 reports results of two deliberation experiments. In the first, a mix of law students and non-law students were asked to collectively decide on the verdict for a hypothetical case. As noted earlier, because Japan adopted a mixed-jury system, the concern has often been raised that the saiban-in may be reluctant to speak up. The author’s experiments sought to replicate the actual mixed-jury setting by having Japanese law students, who, like professional judges, have legal knowledge, deliberate alongside non-law students, who, like most saiban-in, lack legal expertise. The author found that the average non-law student spoke less in terms of speech count than the average law student, and also that law students took the lead in the discussions and supplied legal knowledge. The second involved experiments in which participants were randomly given different amounts of information regarding a case. This, according to the author, also approximates a real saiban-in setting, since, under the new system, professional judges come into a trial with prior knowledge of the case at hand, having participated in the pre-trial conference procedures (kohan-mae seiri tetsuzuki) that are now required of all saiban-in trials. The author finds that presiding members of small groups referred to unshared information more frequently than non-presiding members. The author warns that these findings suggest that the unequal distribution of information may allow presiding judges to exercise considerable influence over the course of deliberations in actual trial settings as well.
Chapter 4 assesses the determinants of Japanese citizens’ trust in the courts. The first part of the chapter draws on original survey data of 1,535 respondents conducted in the Kanto area of Japan and uses structural equation modelling to find that generalized trust impacts trust in the justice system, but also that trust in the justice system affects generalized trust. The author also draws on multiple regression analysis of Japanese General Social Survey data to find that, in 2010, support for the saiban-in system had a positive effect over trust in the courts (the question was not posed in 2008). The author does concede that this finding may have been driven by the introduction of the saiban-in system, but also by other changes that occurred between 2008 and 2010 as well.
Chapter 5 conducted text analyses of the Nikkei newspaper, Japan’s leading business newspaper, to assess how the saiban-in system has been portrayed by the Japanese media. In one of the more intriguing findings reported in the book, the author finds, based on content analysis, that the Nikkei reporting on the saiban-in system since 2001 has been overwhelmingly negative. There were roughly equal numbers of positive and negative articles in 2001 and 2002 but, since 2003, the number of negative articles has vastly outnumbered the number of positive articles and, by 2010, the proportion was about ten to one.
As the author notes, the Nikkei is hardly known as an anti-government newspaper. But it would be useful to know how the Nikkei compares to other news media in its negative coverage of the new saiban-in system. This is an especially important question because, if the negative reporting of the saiban-in system has in fact predominated among the Japanese media, this would raise interesting issues for further exploration. For instance, if the media were so negative towards the new system, why did levels of public trust in the courts rise between 2008 and 2010? What does this say about the impact of the media in shaping mass attitudes towards public institutions in Japan? The courts may also need to be placed in greater perspective. The press may have been negative towards the saiban-in system, but was it less negative than it was vis-à-vis other public institutions in Japan? These present intriguing issues for further inquiry.