Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Visual Aids for Lay Judges?

From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:

Technology helps lay judges / Both sides use simple language, graphics to make their cases

Both the prosecution and defense used various techniques aimed at presenting statements in an understandable way on the first day of the first lay judge trial Monday, using such measures as displaying maps and pictures on electronic screens and making eye contact when addressing lay judges.

Efforts by lawyers to communicate clearly with lay judges, who were participating in a trial for the first time, included paraphrasing technical terms and employing nonverbal methods, such as using computer graphics to detail a victim's wounds.

Read the whole article:

There has been much attention paid to the new court system in Japan where real people from the public will serve with judges in determining guilt or innocence and punishments for defendants in criminal cases. I believe this new system is a good idea and has potential to democritize Japan's out of date and out of touch court system. Judges and lawyers alike have a parental attitude towards the public and often believe that ordinary people do not understand the nuances of the court system. Thus we read reports of how the new system is trying to simplify matters for the lay judges. So-called visual aids are one example of this.

Rather than a "dumbing down" of the courts so that ordinary people can serve as lay judges and make tough decisions, what this new system has the potential to do is to bring the court and its elite down to earth and back to reality. In this respect visual means of explanation should not be seen as substitutes for sophisticated courtroom discourse, but rather resources to aid in understanding and facilitate dialogue and discussion of real life and death matters.

This is the goal of visual anthropology. Real life communication is a multi-media event. Japanese courts should be in tune with the people they purport to serve.

Is my attorney reading this?

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