There is a fine line between playing god and being a judge. Given that we are in a human form, the responsibility of awarding a death penalty to the guilty can be an emotionally draining task for the Lay Judges of Japan. According to the new system put into place in 2009, a team of three professional judges and six randomly selected (eligible voters) citizens preside over murder and other serious criminal cases, to decide if the guilty warrant the death penalty.
If we look into the statements made by two men who served as lay judges in a complicated murder case, the trial can be ‘mentally taxing’ as it affected their routine office work and life. The general consensus welcomes the move of having citizens participating in such complex trials, but the bottom line is, are ordinary people emotionally capable of dealing with the harsh realities of taking someone’s life? Not everyone is that strong enough to live with the fact that they could be responsible for taking a life. For example a company employee, who participated in a trial that resulted in conviction, recalls, “the defendant did not appear to be an evil man, and I felt as if I could have become friends with him under different circumstances.”
Conflicting emotions and emotional detachment can cause havoc for the living, so it really doesn’t matter if hanging amounts to “cruel punishment”. What really matters if this system will make difference in the society and make us better citizens.
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