Courtroom Discourse in Japan's New Judicial Order

Mami Hiraike Okawara

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Courtroom Discourse in Japan's New Judicial Order

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Language Families


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The implementation of the saiban-in (lay judge) system in 2009 has opened the way, not only to lay participation, but also to some participation by linguists in Japanese courtrooms. This article, which explores how differences between lay and professional views are mingled in the judicial deliberations, first explains the saiban-in (lay judge) system and then introduces some studies of court proceedings in Japan. It also examines how the intent to murder is determined in Japanese courts, and, finally, focuses on a discourse connective and analyzes the discussion on the degrees of murder during the deliberation stage in a mock trial. The article shows that lay people do not understand an important legal concept – mihitsu no koi – which means ‘willful negligence’. Furthermore, in determining a defendant's state of mind, lay people tend to look for motives, while the legal system asks them to examine circumstantial evidence instead. The result is a complicated negotiation between the professional and lay judges in which the professional judges play more of a role of educator than of an equal colleague.

Keywords: saiban-in; lay judges; Japan; courtrooms; mock trial; courtroom discourse; judicial deliberations; intent to murder; lay people; willful negligence

Article.  5898 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Language Families

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