Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Just Didn't Do It

This is probably the most detailed and matter of fact courtroom drama I've ever seen. A young man is accused by a 15 year old school girl of groping her on a crowded train. The police, the other guys he is locked up with and public defender all advise him to admit the crime, pay a fine and get on with life.

But he insists that he didn't do it. So he remains locked up while his friend and his bewildered mother look for a lawyer willing to defend him. The case is followed through all its dozen or so public hearings plus the strategy meetings of the defence team.

Why show such a trivial case in such minute detail? Well, as gets pointed out repeatedly, Japanese judges have a 99.9% conviction rate. While officially the system has the same basis as ours, that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but in practise in Japan you are expected to be found guilty unless you can prove you are innocent. Judges are promoted on their throughput of cases and apparently can be demoted or dismissed for acquittals. The police also operate under similar pressures. This means that once the system starts to roll the verdict is almost inevitable. The decision about guilt is not made by the courts but by the police (or perhaps earlier, with those making complaints to the police).

So this film is aimed at shedding light on the injustice of Japan's justice system. It tries to educate its Japanese audience about their justice system, and mostly does it very well with a riveting courtroom drama. The area where the aim is most clear is a number of conversations that seem staged only to explain facts and procedure to the audience.

Perhaps this film has relevance here in NZ, where we recently have had a lot of outcry against acquittals, to show us where we don't want to end up.

FYI: only 3% of people taken to court plead "not guilty", of those who plead "not guilty" only 3% get found "not guilty". Judges handle up to 200 cases simultaneously, and cases can move from one judge to another part way through. Of course there are no juries.

Ian's rating 3.5/5

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