Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal System

May 11, 2010 -

A new entry in the latest edition of the always excellent Escapist Magazine uses Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney as an entry point into examining the peculiar Japanese legal system.

The writer notes the similarities between Phoenix Wright constantly battling “seemingly impossible odds” in-game to statistics from Japan which indicate that people charged with a crime are convicted 99% of the time.

Odds are so overwhelmingly stacked against defendants in Japan that one defense attorney in the country described the job as “one of the toughest in the world,” and reportedly only won five cases in over 25 years, which the piece explains, “…isn't a bad record, many attorneys go their whole careers without winning a case.”

Before going on to further detail the cultural aspects and politics that contribute to such a system—and the changes that are currently trying to be implemented—the author writes:

… the Phoenix Wright games touch on some of the more controversial institutions of the Japanese legal world, such as a powerful and detached prosecutor class, a police force that has lost public confidence, and a dangerous reliance on confessions as the centerpiece of prosecutions. These elements combine to make acquittal nearly impossible and grievous miscarriages of justice almost inevitable.


Comments

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Law is just as tough as politics...

by the way...what is the crime rate in Japan and does this relate to the fact that...

tollarance to violent and sex in computer games = safer country because the law focuses on real crimes...

or less tollerance violence and sex in computer games = law being held up by politics that they can't focus well on real issues like real life crime...

 

We need defence attorneys to allow innocent people to claim their innocence, as well as needing prosicuters and judges to find criminals who had committed crimes that need to go to jail.

what we don't need is for all computer game developers/publishers and store owners to face a judge wasting their time and money all because they gave a 16 year old teenager an M17+ rated game...

TBoneTony

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Don't forget that in Japan, the medical system is such that 'malpractice' results in jailtime for doctors.  I was researching their atrocious Emergency Medical System the other day, and I found an anecdote that talked about how a doctor in an ER missed something on a patient who'd been punched in the face.  What he missed was a complication from a previous injury that no doctor in an ER could reasonably find without  additional test (the guy had a broken nose, he didn't get a full body scan).  The guy ended up dying from complications, and the doctor was sent to jail.  The guy who punched him wasn't.

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Man, by their standards, Nick does pretty well. Though, that means Edgeworth's record isn't all that amazing.

 

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." -Albert Einstein

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." -Albert Einstein

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Different culture / country, you need to put this article into context.

How many people in the US plead guilty vs pleading innocent? Flip that number of the people who plead innocent in the US and you get the number of people who plead guilty in Japan. There is the unfortunate issue of the police forcing confessions, but you'd be surprised at how many people commit a crime and turn themselves in voluntarily in Japan.

You also get the issue of prosecutors cherry picking cases that they can win due to the sheer volume of cases, and couple that with those who go to jail in Japan is relatively low, you get a skewed perception from just looking at the 99% conviction rate. Anyone who looks at that number from the US I'm sure gets a picture of a flood of criminals who are carted off to jails, which is really not what happens.

I'm not saying their system is any better than other law systems, but it's certainly not any worse in the way it's pictured in the article. Things like "lack of confidence in the police / cops" is a universal issue, and isn't isolated to just Japan for instance. They're also missing the point about confessions because the real issue is how police use tactics to coerce the confessions or "break" the people they interrogate. Confessions themselves are fine, it's how they are gotten that's the issue.

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Wow, Japan is cool!

 

Here in Brazil, 99% of judged people, are set free. Then they come to your house, kill your father, rape your mom, and steal your stuff. They get arrested again, freed again, and do that to your neighbor. (with me, fortunally only the stealing part happened... altough the same guy, that got already arrested about 20 times and released by our legal system, already robbed nearly EVERYONE houses in my neighbor in 4 years, and killed about 20 dogs, to get entry in the house... fortunally my dogs survived when he poisoned them...)

If it is a politician being judged, then the rate is 99.99999999%

That is, it is not 100%, because one guy, once opposed the biggest party here, and got empeached and all... Altough he was guilty anyway (Fernando Collar de Mello), but our current politicians did MUCH WORSE and go without a single penalty, not even a temporary arrest...

 

Seriously, Japan is MUCH better, in a country where you have to fear the legal system, you don't have to fear your neighbor, the guy on the street, your son, your cousin, the postman, the cops, the firefighters, the... you get it :P (and seriously, the part about "your son" is serious too, here we have several parenticide every year, when news break about it, is not even shocking anymore...)

 

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Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Actually, you do still have to fear your neighbor.   False accusation with an offer to drop the charges for a cash settlement is a common practice.  

In tokyo at least, an easy way for a young girl to make a quick buck is to accuse some random guy of groping her then offering to drop the charges (or simply not go to the police in the first place) for a few thousand yen. 

You also have the problem of certain groups generally get ignored by the police, so you have to fear those who the prosecutors do not go after.  There have been a rash of exposed pedophiles in civil service (several school priniciples) and while they got a bit of a public smear, charges were never brought against them.   So those that the law ignores are free to do as they please.

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

It should be further noted that the Japanese Prosecutors don't even bother going to trial if they don't think that a conviction is assured. 

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

I was wondering if this is the case.  Do you have a link to support the statement, or are you just relating common knowledge? 

I can imagine it would be very embarrassing for a Japanese prosecutor to charge an innocent man.  I also imagine they've even committed suicide for ruining an innocent man's life. As a result, perhaps they are just more thorough before bringing charges?

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

 I have gotten the impression the exact opposite effect happens.  Yes, it would be embarrassing for them, but that makes it all that much more important to make sure you get the person convicted.

From what I have heard, in the Japanese legal system, if they want you convicted, you are convicted.  It is not unheard of for someone to commit suicide after being charged because they can be pretty sure that their life is over.  The word of the prosecutor is almost enough right there, since why would you be on trial unless you are guilty?

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

It's a common knowledge thing I'm afraid, I did read it somewhere obviously but it was a while ago so I forget where it was.

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

It should be noted that the famed conviction rate of Japan is a bit inflated due to all those confessions. Even when people admit their guilt, there is a still a trial, and nearly everyone confesses once they are arrested. Unfortunately, there is no metric for distinguishing those "I did it" trials from the "I didn't do it" trials.

Do Not Talk About Feitclub http://www.feitclub.com

Do Not Talk About Feitclub http://www.feitclub.com

Re: Phoenix Wright as a Microcosm of the Japanese Legal ...

Re: lack of jury and the presentation of judge in Japan

IANAL but I need to point tihs out.

What the magazine did not point out is that this is the major difference of legal system in Japan, which uses civil law in contrast to the US, Britain and Canada, which uses common law.

In civil law, the judge have more control in the court while in common law system the lawyers does that.

 
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