A headline in the newspaper said early April: ‘Bill quite likely to pass the Diet ? reforms in criminal procedure and judicial system’. The agendum was suspended last Diet session for further debates. On April 14 the bill was put on the Committee of Judicial Affairs of the House of Councilors for debates. Revisions contain introduction of pseudo-visualization measures of police investigation that may allow false charges to persist and plea bargaining that may advocate a tip-off of information as well as aggravation of the Wire-tapping Law. The bill must not be enacted.
WE CAN ABOLISH BILL, IF ENACTMENT IS SUCCESSFULLY ANULLED
The bill, titled ‘a bill for partial revision of the Criminal Procedure Law and others’, was submitted to the ordinary Diet session last year. That was basically planned to reform the judiciary radically with the objectives to discontinue false charges and evade fabrication of opportune proofs by police authorities. As for the former malpractices, we know many cases, including one for Ms. Muraki Atsuko, ex-Bureau Chief of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, who was accused of forgery of documents for uses at post offices, and another, the Fukawa Case in which two young suspects were acquitted over 40 years after the homicide. Concerning the latter, the bill proposed to implement measures to make police interrogation visualized (recording voices and filming the examination course).
However, the entity of prosecutors, police and the Ministry of Justice opposed the bid on the ground that investigation would be hampered if visualized and insisted that the social order would be deteriorated. Consequently, the circle compromised in the minor condition and in exchange for that it requested drastic revision of the Wire-tapping Law and introduction of plea bargaining. Their ideas were incorporated in the package bill, which was put on the Diet’s agenda. Last year the Committee of Judicial Affairs of the Lower House discussed for 68 hours, slightly modifying the bill, to be approved by the majority of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito and the opposition, Democratic Party of Japan (=DPJ, then).
But in the Upper House it was set for further debates because the DPJ had demanded to deal with another bill first to forbid hate speeches (Bill to encourage measures to eliminate racial discrimination) and confronted with the ruling parties.
Recent court ruling on killing a young girl
Now let’s look at a latest case of possible false charge. It makes us think over a risk of an incomplete filming of police interrogation. A sentence of life imprisonment was issued by lay judges at the Utsunomiya District Court on a murder of a young girl in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo. It was scheduled to be released on March 31, 2016, but was postponed on April 8. The court ruled the suspect Katsumata Takuya to serve life time in prison, acknowledging credibility of his written confession.
The ruling states clearly that ‘criminality of the defendant cannot be established solely by objective facts’, but it admits integrity of the letters. It continues to say that ‘the letters of confession show full solidity which the very offender can endorse’.
Counsels for the defense insisted that ‘the defendant was forced to write by police threats’, while the five letters of confession were adopted on agreement as proofs solely by professional judges.
Some criticize the judgment, saying ‘the court preferred confession to objective proofs. In the absence of substantiation to rule the defendant is guilty, it convicted him. A false charge cannot be excluded’.
An edited-version of recording and filming of the police investigation was presented for seven hours during the trial. In fact, the questioning lasted over 80 hours. The edition focused on scenes where the suspect described killing of the girl. In the press meeting held after the trial, the lay judges mentioned, respectively, ‘without the videos I could not make judgment’. That indicates that citizen judges intensely relied on the recorded and filmed products. A doubt of false charge cannot be swept away.
People criticize that the judiciary amends the penal laws extensively for their convenience in exchange for the minimum concession of screening police investigation and that the police authority is audacious.
The true aim of a series of bills, including one to worsen the Wire-tapping Law, lies in preparation for the policy to transform the country so that it could commit in a war. If the package bill fails in enactment in the current session, it will be cancelled as the House of Councilors election is scheduled in July.
May 17, 2016