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Many of the lawyers Robert Precht has been working with lately are veterans, with one exception: They don’t know anything about juries. The reason: they’re based in Japan, which will start its version of a jury-based system in May 2009. Currently, the trial system is mostly based on written records, and there are no jurors. “I have been working with lawyers to share some of the techniques that American lawyers use to basically present a defense to lay people, which means having opening statements, using cross-examination to advance a theory of the case and using summations to tell the story,” said Precht, of The Law Offices of Robert Precht in Mesa, Ariz. In addition to Japan, Georgia, the former Soviet satellite, is also implementing a jury system, while Russia is taking a new look at its system. A number of American lawyers, judges, legal scholars — and even jurors — have traveled to those countries as a result, sharing lessons learned in the U.S. jury system. Japan has a 99.9 percent conviction rate in the trial system, said Hiroshi Fukurai, professor of sociology and legal studies at UC-Santa Cruz. But when the country briefly had a jury system, from 1928-1943, the acquittal rate was 17 percent, which is comparable to the rest of the world, he said. A native of Japan, Fukurai said he has been advocating for a jury system there for years. “The conviction rate is extremely high, and there is tremendous governmental control,” he said. “I truly believe in a democratic society — a jury presents the kind of system you need to have.” Japan’s new system, called the saiban-in, will begin next year and will only be used in the most serious criminal cases, such as murders. Defendants will be judged by six jurors and three judges, each of whom will have one vote. A majority vote will be needed for the verdict. The only exception is for guilty verdicts, when at least one judge also has to deliver the guilty vote in order for the guilty verdict to count. Jurors will be able to ask questions in the courtroom. One of the major concerns that has been raised is that lay jurors will be afraid to speak up in front of other lay jurors, as well as judges, because Japan’s culture has a strong deference to people of power, said Anne Reed, a shareholder in Milwaukee’s Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren. Reed, who also works as a jury consultant, travelled to Japan in March to talk about jurors and stress. He discussed the importance of keeping jurors informed to help alleviate stress. “One of the things we had a chance to explain is how many different types of information jurors need and in how many ways a good court made a point in giving it to them, so it goes all the way from parking directions to clear jury instructions,” Reed said. Other countries, such as Russia, have been using juries since the early 1990s, but are currently assessing whether there is room for improvement. In the country of Georgia, American legal professionals have also been talking to residents and legal professionals there as the country prepares to start using juries for some criminal trials, most likely starting next year. Because it is a relatively small country of only 4 million people, there are concerns about jurors judging someone they have a connection to, said Donna Wright, director for Europe and Eurasia for the ABA Rule of Law Initiative. “The concerns the Georgians are raising are based on family ties — family is very important, and family comes first, and the families are extended, and when you’re talking about the population the size it is, it’s going to be very difficult to find people that don’t have some tie or are involved in the case or are from the same village,” she said. “It’s very much a who-you-know culture.” Georgia has drafted a new criminal procedure code, which is expected to be passed by the Parliament soon, Wright said. As part of this change, the hope is that jury trials will begin in January for most serious criminal cases, such as treason and murder, she said. Fukurai said he’s cautious about initiatives such as the ABA’s, as it tends to target countries where Americans have established military bases. “This is the exploitation of legal culture from the United States, one way of making sure they have very similar legal cultures and training and groups of individuals who understand the American law,” he said. Wright, a former civil defense attorney who returned from Georgia in early April, where she spent a year as the director of ABA’s initiative there, stressed the importance of recognizing that another country’s juror system will not necessarily mirror that of the United States. “I don’t come from the position that every country should have a jury system and every trial should have a jury,” Wright said. “There are various ways to do it, but what we’re trying to do is when a country decides that it wants a particular system, we facilitate that country’s process so that it works as fairly as possible.”

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