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Japan lawmakers form group to postpone implementation of lay judge system

[JURIST] Twenty members of the Japanese parliament, the National Diet, formed a nonpartisan group [Japan Times report] Wednesday in order to delay the implementation of a lay judge system in the country. The group has concerns over rules governing disclosure and trial duration, along with the belief that the members of public will not be prepared make decisions in serious cases. Japan's proposed system [Japan Inc backgrounder] will consist of six members chosen from the public, and three professional judges, who together will decide serious criminal cases, including murder. The panel will decide guilt or innocence and sentencing by a majority vote, provided one professional judge is in the majority. The lay judge system is set to go into effect on May 1, 2009.

The Supreme Court of Japan [official website; Japan Times backgrounder] recently announced that approximately one out of every four citizens would not be eligible to serve [Mainichi Daily News report] as lay judges. Those who are ineligible to serve include policemen and security personnel. Others are given the option of serving, including those who are over the age of 70, are full time students, or have serious medical conditions. Japan previously experimented with a jury system from 1928 to 1943 in which only males over the age of 30 could participate.

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