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Juries to become part of Okinawa legal system

Date Posted: 2008-09-12

Trial by jury is nothing new for Americans, but for the Okinawan legal system, itís something brand new.

Ordinary citizens will be chosen from pools of citizens, says Naha City District Judge Touru Miyao, a change from the ages old system of judges hearing cases and single handedly meting out justice. Miyao says the new trial system will be implemented starting next May 20th.

The system is relatively simple, the district judge says. A random system will select at least 2,000 jurors 20 years of age and older for possible service. Exempt will be lawyers and national Diet members, as well as people who tell the judge he or she could not be fair or objective. Miyao says a typical case will see six jurors chosen from pools of 50~100 candidates.

Jurors will hear testimony, as in the U.S., and then cast their guilt or innocence ballots. Convictions, the judge says, will be determined by majority decision. One fifth of the trials under the new system are expected to finish in two days, with half of the more complex cases taking three days. Miyao says 20% of the trials are expected to take five days, with 10% of the trials lasting more than five days. Jurors will be paid •10,000 per day for their service.

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