The Japanese Quasi-Jury and the American Jury: A Comparative Assessment of Juror Questioning and Sentencing Procedures and Cultural Elements in Lay Judicial Participation

This Note evaluates the effectiveness of juror questioning and sentencing in the context of Japan’s recently instituted quasi-jury (saiban-in) system. The author begins by chronicling the Japanese and American experience with lay judicial participation and examining the procedural details of the saiban-in system. Lay judicial participation has received a mixed response in American jury research, but Japan’s system appears to be accomplishing its goal of involving Japanese citizens in the criminal judicial process. The author attributes the system’s preliminary success to Japan’s use of juror questioning and sentencing. Drawing upon American research, the author suggests some modifications that could reduce the risks created by lay judicial participation and enhance the system’s effectiveness. If Japan’s jury structure continues to enjoy its current success, a comprehensive study of the saiban-in system may provide valuable lessons in how to improve the American jury experience by implementing effective jury questioning and sentencing procedures.

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