One of the Toughest Jobs in the World

 Posted on January 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

A reader sent me this link: Japanese Justice. In Japan, you can be detained by the police for up to 23 days without habeas corpus. "Forced signed confessions, still considered the "king of evidence" by Japanese courts, are often the result." No kidding - if you have a guy in custody for 23 days and can't get him to confess to whatever you want, you've got no business interrogating people, especially when "resisting police demands for a confession, and denying the charges, results in detention for extended periods; confession can bring a speedy release."

You think that would make it tough to be a defense lawyer in Japan? It does - 99% of people accused are convicted, mostly by their own confessions. But wait, there's more:

Most worryingly of all, say critics, lawyers - the last line of defense in this potholed legal landscape - are not immune from harassment.

Tokyo lawyer Yoshihiro Yasuda was arrested in 1998 and held for 300 days while he was tried on charges of unlawfully concealing the assets of a client. Yasuda was no friend of the police: he had defended Shoko Asahara, leader of the murderous religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, and is Japan's most outspoken critic of the death penalty.

During the Aum trial, the lawyer accused the police of failing to properly investigate the Aum-sanctioned murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family, because he sided against them in the alleged wiretapping of Communist Party members.

In 2003, the Tokyo District Court found him not guilty, criticizing the prosecutors as "unfair." But Yasuda remains furious about his detention and interrogation.

"How can we achieve the principle of presumption of innocence in Japan under such circumstances?" he asked The Japan Times after his release.

Says Lawrence Repeta, a constitutional specialist at Tokyo's Omiya Law School: "The point of what they did to him is to threaten every lawyer in Japan. The authorities are saying to lawyers, ‘Back off, don't aggressively represent your client or we are going to destroy your life.' Yasuda's extended pretrial detention amounts to punishment, even before the court issued a decision."

Defense lawyer and professor Takashi Takano "calls being a defense lawyer in Japan one of the toughest jobs in the world: after 25 years practicing law, just five of his clients have been completely exonerated."

"Some lawyers go their whole lives without winning a case," he explains. "I was very shocked when I first went to court and saw arrogant judges ignore hearsay rules, accept confessions - and lawyers who didn't challenge them. I feel very strong anger toward the Japanese justice system. It is my motivation to change things."

Reform is coming: starting in spring 2008 lay juries will hear serious criminal cases in Japan for the first time since 1943.

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