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In the News April 7th, 2014 | Author: David

In the News

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Some of you probably noticed that there have been two big news stories in Japan recently relating to topics we have discussed on this blog.

The first concerned Japan’s whaling program. An international court found that the program has no real scientific basis, and that it is therefore illegal.

For me, the most shocking thing about this story was the fact that Japan wanted to continue the hunt even though it already has 2,300 whales’ worth of meat in storage.

I also read that incredible amounts of money have been spent by the Japanese government subsidising this pointless program that achieves nothing apart from making right-wing nationalists happy and damaging Japan’s international image.

The second story was about the ex-pro boxer who was sentenced to death for murder in 1966, but who has recently been cleared by the Japanese courts. This man, who everyone now agrees was innocent, spent 43 years of his life never knowing when he woke up in the morning whether that day would be his last.

To me, this is just more proof that Japan needs to abolish the death penalty. There are so many stories of wrongful convictions and police malpractice here that it is difficult for me to understand how anyone can support it.

Anyway, I remember that we had had some quite lively discussions on these topics before, so I thought that it would be interesting to find out whether these stories have changed anyone’s mind on either or both of these issues.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Comments

  1. YU
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 10:14

    Hi David and evryone,

    Here are my answers.

    About research whaling ;

    Actually, I haven’t commented on Japan’s ‘research whaling’ very much here. I don’t think Japan needs to continue it either, but I still can’t agree that people in other countries treat whales and dolphines better than other animals. They’re different matters.

    About death penalty ;

    I really feel sorry for him. I think all the investigation procedures should be video-recorded and released anytime the defendant requests to get rid of wrongful convictions or police malpractice, but I don’t think it is directly connected with the conclusion that death penalty itself is wrong. I think it only means that wrongful convictions or police malpractice are wrong. If you are asked whether death penalty is right or wrong, you should think over whether a nation(people) has a right to kill people.

  2. Biwa
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 10:58

    Hi everyone,

    The first story is easy for me to comment on compared to the second one. I was glad that Japan has accepted the decision of the international court. It’s just a lame excuse to insist that whale-hunting is our ‘culture’ while there is more whale meat in the freezers than we can actually eat up. However, this news made me think that the Japanese government was just trying to show that they obey international judgement considering the disputes over Takeshima and Senkaku islands. They want to show how civilized a country Japan is to the international society, bring up the issues to the international court, and have China and Korea obey the judgement, right? I can’t help thinking that this was a part of the diplomatic strategy.

    I’ll comment on the second story after I read the older entries. One thing for sure is that people do make mistakes, so the system must always take that into account.

  3. David
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 12:16

    Hi YU,

    There are two issues when it comes to the death penalty. The first is whether you believe the state has the right to kill people; the second is whether you are confident that the justice system does not make mistakes. Both of these need to be considered in deciding whether you are for or against the death penalty. Logically, there are four positions that you can take:

    I am against the death penalty because I believe that the state does not have the right to kill its citizens. (That’s my position, by the way.)

    I am against the death penalty. Although I believe that some people deserve to be killed, I think the risk of mistakes is too high.

    I support the death penalty. I believe that the state does have the right to take the life of someone who has killed others, and I believe that the justice system does not make mistakes.

    I support the death penalty. I believe that the state does have the right to take the life of someone who has killed others. Although I know that this will result in innocent people being killed, I think that is a price worth paying.

    The story about the wrongly convicted man, along with lots of other similar ones, proves conclusively that the justice system makes mistakes. Therefore, if you are in favour of retaining the death penalty in Japan, your position must logically be the fourth of the ones I listed above.

  4. Akira
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 2:57

    I agree with Biwa’s diplomatic idea. I’ve never come to think of that sort of idea before.

    it’s hard to understand both Japanese and other countries’ explanations about whaling, which are poor and not logical. It’s horrible in some ways, of course, and you should stop current way of whaling, but whaling itself shouldn’t be banned comletely unless acceptable reasons are given.

    As far as execusion is concerned, I am against it, however mistake judge won’t be the reason why death penalty should be abolished because it’s different problem from the investigation or trial system.

  5. David
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 3:57

    Hi Akira,

    Thanks for your comment. As I said to YU, I don’t see how anyone can think of the death penalty as being a different problem from investigation or trial systems. The death penalty is a part of the trial system, and it functions within it. If you support the death penalty within a system that you know to be flawed, you are basically accepting that innocent people will be killed. I think it is very important for people to understand that these issues need to be considered together.

  6. YU
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 5:44

    Please allow me to say this.

    I’m afraid I never said that I’m for the death penalty or the state has the right to kill people. My position might be the fourth of the ones you listed “in your theory”, but that’s actually not my position. I’m not particularly for the death penalty now.

    >As I said to YU, I don’t see how anyone can think of…….

    I don’t think they’re different problems either. Did my sentences sound so?
    Anyway, it’s true that you can save innocent people’s lives by abolishing it, but it doesn’t mean that it could solve all falsh charge cases in Japan. I’m not absolutely sure if Akira wanted to say things like that too, but anyway this is what I actually meant to say.

  7. David
    Commented on
    2014/04/08 at 7:42

    Hi YU,

    I understand what you mean. I was just responding to your comment that “it is not directly connected with the conclusion that the death penalty itself is wrong.” I think that the two are very much connected.

    It’s fine to disagree with me, though! That is what the blog is supposed to be about – debate and discussion.

    It’s true that abolishing the death penalty wouldn’t solve the problem of unjust convictions, but if you kill someone, there is nothing you can do later if you find out that it was a mistake. If the death penalty is abolished, mistakes can be corrected.

    By the way, this is not just a Japanese issue. There have been countless cases of wrongful convictions in the US as well. I guess the position that people like me take is this:

    I understand your (“your” just means whoever I happen to be discussing it with at the time) opinion that people who have killed others do not deserve to live themselves, even if I don’t agree with it. However, there are so many problems with the justice system that the death penalty cannot be used even if you support it because innocent people will be killed as well.

  8. Fumie
    Commented on
    2014/04/09 at 5:57

    Hi David and everyone,

    My thoughts about Japanese whale hunt hasn’t changed since the last discussion.
    About Mr. Hakamada’s case, I think it’s terrible and I feel so sorry for him and these wrong convictions should never happen again. It’s like depriving innocent people’s life. Because of the wrong conviction, he became mentally ill. If he hadn’t charged that penalty, he would have led a happy life. How the police atone him his lost time? I totally agree with David’s second position. As long as there is a possibility of wrong conviction, death punishment shouldn’t be conducted. Think of what if your husband or son was sentenced to death although he is innocent, how deep your sorrow would be and can you forgive the police?

  9. Biwa
    Commented on
    2014/04/09 at 8:59

    Hi everyone,

    >As long as there is a possibility of wrong conviction, death punishment shouldn’t be conducted.

    I agree with Fumie’s idea. Even if the possibility was only one out of a hundren, to me, that would be more than enough a good reason to abolish the death penalty.

    However, I am not in the second position. Logically, it means that if there was absolutely no fear of making mistakes, the state has the right to kill its citizens, and that is not what I think. I found a sentence in the older entry that best represents what I think about this issue. Tomo said, “I agree that there are some criminals who don’t deserve to be called ‘people’ or ‘human’, and they might deserve the death penalty, but I don’t think it’s our(a human’s) job to decide whether or not someone should die.”

    I don’t believe in God, but I believe that there is a ‘line’ that humans should never cross. The instant you cross it, you do the same thing as the criminal, which means you fall down to the same level as him/her.

    Besides, I strongly think that we need more ‘safety-nets’ in our justice system. I have heard that, in Japan, the rate of being declared guilty(有罪率) is nearly 100%, and the objection appeal(上訴) is almost never accepted. It’s a very scary society.

  10. YU
    Commented on
    2014/04/09 at 9:54

    Hi David,

    >but if you kill someone, there is nothing you can do later if you find out that it was a mistake.

    I can agree with ‘this’ idea.
    Actually, I felt something wrong with your idea that only the death penalty (among all criminal punishments) should be abolished because the justice system makes mistakes. I don’t think the idea sounds fair to all innocent prisoners. If the logic was correct, all kinds of criminal penalties other than the death penalty should be abolished too. Of course, I agree with your idea that innocent people who were sentenced to death should be saved first because those who were lost will never return, but I just wanted to remind you of the fact that there’re also many innocent prisoners besides them.

    言いたいことが上手く言えてるかわかりませんが、I hope you’ll get me this time for sure.

  11. David
    Commented on
    2014/04/09 at 11:01

    Hi YU,

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I understand what you mean. You mean that regardless of what we think about the death penalty, the problem of miscarriages of justice in general is another problem that needs to be addressed separately. Is that right?

    If so, I agree with you 100%. You can never have a perfect justice system, but every country should do everything they can to make sure theirs is as good as it can possibly be.

    I think I am right in saying that it is a principle of British law that it is more important to avoid wrongly convicting an innocent person than to avoid wrongly acquitting a guilty one. That may be difficult to understand, so let me give you an example.

    There are three people called A, B, and C in a room. There is also a gun. Someone picks up the gun and shoots A. B says that C did it, and C says that B did it. If there is no evidence, the court has to find both of them not guilty even though they know that one of them did it.

    To the best of my recollection, police interviews have been recorded since the early 1980s in the UK. These days, I’m pretty sure they have to be videoed. The police cannot interview someone without a lawyer present if a lawyer has been requested, and there are strict limits on how long they can hold suspects without charging them.

    Japan’s system really is extremely dangerous and very out-of-step with the rest of the developed world. It’s closer to somewhere like North Korea than it is to Europe and the West. (You may remember the Japanese delegate to the UN who got angry and told everyone to “Shut up.” The reason they were laughing at him was that he had claimed the Japanese justice system is modern and fair.)

    I think the problem is that Japanese people tend to trust anyone in authority. Unfortunately, the police (like teachers, doctors, nurses, and any other profession) are just regular people. There are good ones and bad ones, honest ones and dishonest ones, and competent and incompetent ones. That is why it is important to have a strong system with safeguards that protect the public from the bad ones.

  12. Akira
    Commented on
    2014/04/09 at 8:59

    Hi all,

    >it’s true that you can save innocent people’s lives by abolishing it, but it doesn’t mean that it could solve all falsh charge cases.
    >regardless of what we think about the death penalty, the problem of miscarriages of justice in general is another problem that needs to be addressed separately

    These ideas are same as mine.

    Death penalty should be abolished. I think, however, even if so, there could be still some innocent people in prisons unless the investigation or trial system is changed. We should deal with abolishing death penalty and changing the trial system at the same time.

  13. Biwa
    Commented on
    2014/04/10 at 9:05

    Hi everyone,

    >…but if you kill someone, there is nothing you can do later if you find out that it was a mistake. If the death penalty is abolished, mistakes can be corrected.

    This is from David’s comment, and it made me think(realize?) that our discussion is all based on the assumption that the death penalty is the ‘maximum’ penalty.

    If the death penalty is abolished, ‘the worst’ mistake can be corrected. I say ‘the worst’ here because I believe that to decide someone should die is not something that humans(the state) should never do.

    However, there must be a lot of innocent people who spend all the rest of their lives in prison, in despair with the misjudgement never being corrected. The mistake can never be atoned for, either. It’s hard to tell which is crueler, or which is the ultimate penalty, isn’t it?

    Adding to that, I have read that some criminals commit vicious crimes from a strong desire to die. To them, the death penalty is not a penalty at all, nothing but something they had wished.

    When thinking about the best justice system- as it could possibly be- there are so many arguments at every stage/side, both logical and emotional that it seems almost impossible to reach some kind of conclusion. Also, I think it is logically possible to argue if it is right to have someone(the state) to decide someone else’s penalty in the first place. Of course, if we said no to this, the world would become a chaos, so I guess we just assume that it is right.

    Anyway, I agree with all of you that we need to have a strong justice system with good safeguards!

  14. Biwa
    Commented on
    2014/04/10 at 9:09

    Sorry, I made a mistake in the second paragraph.

    >to decide someone should die is not something that humans(the state) should never do.

    ⇒to decide someone should die is something that humans should never do.

  15. Haru
    Commented on
    2014/04/10 at 10:08

    Hi,David and everyone.Nice to meet you.
    I’m not good at English.
    If you have time,please tell me my mistake.

    About research whaling,I’m against it unless the goverment show the world scientific reason and get approval of many Japanese.Now Japan has big national debt,goverment have to consider reducing it first.If goverment continue research whaling,they have to show japanese more worthwhile reason rather than saving money.

    About death penalty,my position is first of the theory.I think the final purpass of punishment is all people live safely and happily.Even if you abolish death penalty and change it to indefinite prison term,you can keep society safe and happy,I think.

  16. David
    Commented on
    2014/04/10 at 10:11

    Hi Haru. Thanks for your comment. Nice to have you with us.

  17. YU
    Commented on
    2014/04/10 at 10:30

    Hi Haru,

    Nice to have you with us! :-)

    Hi David,

    I’m glad that you understood what I mean this time. Even if innocent people were sentenced to life instead of death by abolishing the death penalty, they would still remain prisoners as ever and the time they spent or things they lost in the prison will never return even if the mistakes were corrected later and they were found innocent and acquitted. The same applies to other innocent prisoners too.

    > I think the problem is that Japanese people tend to trust anyone in authority.

    There’s some reason what you say. There have been many cases of wrongful convictions, but to tell the truth, I can’t remember even what the last time case was like. I don’t think anyone in Japan objects to eliminate false charges if they were interviewed, but unlike you, most of us have never seriously thought about if the death penalty itself is right or wrong, if the state has the right to kill people, so the death penalty remains just the maximum penalty among all criminal penalties for us and so, many people still support it, I think.

  18. Biwa
    Commented on
    2014/04/11 at 2:39

    Hi everyone,

    By the way, have any of you ever put an x-mark on a justice at the national review of the justices of the Supreme Court(最高裁裁判官の国民審査), which is always held at the same time as the Lower-House general election? (Sorry, I don’t know how I can make this sentence shorter!) Well, I have never done it myself. To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in each cases, but this week’s discussion made me think that I should be more interested. Of course, no one can really watch each trial, but we can oppose a judgment by dismissing bad justices.