April 13, 2017
In a 2006 film from Japan, Soredemo boku wa yattenai (“I Just Didn’t Do It”), a man, on the way to a job interview, is falsely accused of molesting a teenage girl on the train and is arrested. He then refuses to admit to the crime. Over the next two hours, the director, Masayuki Suo, takes viewers on a compelling journey through Japan’s criminal justice system, showing how it places enormous pressure on defendants in order to secure confessions and convictions.
In 2018, Japan will change this system with the introduction of a limited form of plea bargaining. Suspects accused of bribery and white collar crimes will be able to receive deals from prosecutors in exchange for information about accomplices. At the same time, a new system will require that a small percentage of criminal interrogations—those for the most serious offences, such as murder and kidnapping—will be video-recorded.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (日本弁護士連合会) (“JFBA”) has welcomed the video-recording measures, but has concerns about the plea bargaining system, noting that it creates incentives that may lead to the production of false information.
From April 2-7, a delegation of lawyers from the JFBA, led by Mr. Yuji Maeda, visited New York to engage in focused research on two issues: plea bargaining and the role of defense lawyers in interrogations immediately following arrest of a suspect. The JFBA met with representatives from the New York Police Department, the New York State and Federal Courts and the legal community. The JFBA were also given lectures and Q&A sessions by academics at New York University School of Law, including Professors Jerome Cohen, Frank Upham, Andrew Schaffer, Erin Murphy and Ira Belkin.
Photo: A JFBA delegate is given a mock interview by a staff member at New York’s Criminal Justice Agency