May 11, 2017

No objection

As I described last week, police in Japanese crime dramas rarely go barging into the domicile of a suspect. Because the doors are built like bank vaults. It's easier to ask the landlord to come up with a key. If not, the police will respect demands for a search warrant.

They just don't have to try very hard to get one. The familiar Law & Order scene of lawyers arguing in front of a judge for a search warrant is one you simply do not see in Japanese police procedurals. Nor anybody arguing after the fact about its validity.

This article in the Japan Times covers the subject pretty well. "Stop and frisk" is allowed whenever the police have "reasonable cause" to suspect the person has committed or is about to commit a crime.

The phrase "crimes about to be committed" allows the police to list "vigilance against possible crimes" as the main excuse for pulling people aside, effectively giving them a way to justify the routine in nearly every situation. The police are not legally bound to explain what the "reasonable cause" for suspicion was.

Yet another reason prosecutors in Japan enjoy a 99 percent conviction rate.

Hero is a whodunit series about Tokyo ADAs. During questioning (after the arrest and before allocution), there is almost never a lawyer present. They can do all the questioning they want. Defendants never get bail, even for petty crimes. The issue doesn't come up.

Or consider the series Emergency Interrogation Room. It essentially takes Vincent D'Onofrio's interrogation scenes from Law & Order: Criminal Intent and expands them to fill most of each episode.

On the Law & Order "realism" scale (meaning "realistic" for a television police procedural), Criminal Intent isn't very. It might better be described as the "Worst Defense Lawyers Ever" show.

But, hey, "realism" in popular entertainment is way overrated. I just want my disbelief suspended, and D'Onofrio usually carries it off. D'Onofrio's Goren would be right at home in Emergency Interrogation Room. He wouldn't have to worry about lawyers at all.

The "emergency" in Emergency Interrogation Room is analogous to the "major" in "major case squad" in Criminal Intent. And this particular interrogation room is tricked out like the one Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) employs in Lie to Me. So not very "realistic."

Except that suspects step into Dr. Lightman's interrogation room voluntarily. Whether they are there as witnesses or suspects, it is highly unlikely the interviewees in Emergency Interrogation Room will have a lawyer with them. And, sadly enough, that is realistic.

But here's the unrealistic thing about Emergency Interrogation Room and most crime dramas set in Japan: the entire country would have a hard time filling the police blotter with serious felonies in a year as fast as the average American city does in a week.

On the other hand, that's never stopped our British cousins from producing highly entertaining crime series. Death in Paradise is a prime example of Chicago-style murder rates in a Caribbean resort town (which must pose a real PR real headache for the tourism board).

The advantage of these sleepy settings with selectively high crime rates is that they constrain the supply of red herrings. As we can assume our detectives are not corrupt and will do things mostly "by the book," every crime gets turned into a locked room mystery.

Japanese cops do things by the book. It's just that the book isn't as thick in the same places. Or can be missing entire chapters.

Hence the paradox that Japanese law enforcement is both draconian in terms of respect for due process (confessions extracted under dubious circumstances are especially problematic) and surprisingly lenient when it comes to prosecution and sentencing.

Except when it comes to the death sentence, which is still carried out and which hardly anybody in Japan gets upset about. (In Fuyumi Ono's latest Twelve Kingdoms short story collection, she devotes a novella to a debate about the death penalty.)

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# posted by Blogger Unknown
5/17/2017 7:27 AM   
Thank you so much for your translation. Your works have unmatched decency of quality. Please keep it up and I will follow up with you and continue to support you. Thank you.