A New Chapter in Japanese Social and Legal History
On 4 August 2009, at about 1.20 in the afternoon, three professional judges entered a courtroom at Tokyo District Court, then seated and arranged themselves. Next into the courtroom was a defendant from whom handcuffs and a rope around his waist were removed. A new chapter in Japanese social and legal history began when two of the judges left the courtroom to invite six persons selected to serve as lay judges ( saiban-in ) to join them—a thing almost impossible even to imagine before the start of this century, and the result of five years’ intense preparation for the introduction of Japan’s first lay judge system. Five women and one man entered and took their seats on each side of the professional judges. Three reserve lay judges also came in and sat behind them. All had been selected earlier in the day in a procedure closed to the public.