Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not Gleeful At All

I was going to write a long post on Ozawa's status following the conviction of his three former political secretaries. However, The Economist has gone ahead and done it for all of us.

I would just like to make two points in reference to my last post. A reader wrote me saying that I had expressed little but my glee at Ozawa's downfall.

Sometimes, I guess my tone is impenetrable.

I thought that including "miscarriage of justice" as one of the labels was hint enough that all I felt at this decision (and its implications for Ozawa's trial, which starts October 6) was utter disillusionment.

In the decision handed down on Monday, construction company executives (!) offered testimony confessing to committing crimes in collusion with Ishikawa Tomohiko and Okubo Takanori. The defendants, on the contrary, said that they had not committed crimes in collusion with the executives. Indeed, Ishikawa claims he never even met the executive who supposedly secretly gave him 50 million yen in cash.

So what was the judge's thinking?

"Well, let me see here. The executives are willing to admit to committing crimes. The defendants say they are innocent. Now it is well-known fact that construction company executives bribe politicians. Since the executives' admission of the commission of crimes puts them in jeopardy, they must be telling the truth. The defendants, meanwhile, have selfishly maintained their innocence. Therefore it is plausible that the crimes occurred and the defendants are lying."
I wish I were kidding about this.

The judge's decision to accept as valid the testimony of the construction company executives exposes on a grand scale what is practiced on the small scale every single day in Japanese jurisprudence: the tendency of judges to make decisions based which side tells a better story. This tendency has been intrinsic, for example, to lack of success that fathers have had trying to recover their children. Once the wife declares she or the children have suffered abuse, the game is over. "The wife ran away, therefore there must have been abuse," is the weird syllogism judges draw in these cases, literally without thinking.

Japan has a huge number of legal experts (administrative scriveners and the like) but a piddling number of lawyers. There is a reason for this: the last place anyone would want to be is in front of a Japanese judge, trying to defend oneself or explain a situation.

As for Ozawa's career being toast, I say it without glee. While Ozawa is worthy of criticism (he should have, for the good of everyone involved, wrapped himself in the Japanese flag and taken a victory lap around the stadium following the electoral victory in August 2009, then retired to take up napping in the upper tiers of the House of Representatives as a hobby) no one deserves to be the victim of a judicial kneecapping. It destroys lives and careers, whilst diminishing the nation in the eyes of the world.

That is what has happened here and it makes me ill.


Philippe said...

I may have missed it somehow - but are those executives who gleefully admitted to commit crimes on trial ? And I wonder what will happen during the appeals process. Prolly not much, but who knows…

This whole show is not even a miscarriage of justice, but a witch hunt.

Fernando said...

Thank you for another great post.

Takano Hajime offered a possible explanation for why an executive at a midlevel contractor would admit to bribery.

According to Takano, there are accounts of smaller fish in the construction food chain agreeing to pass on bribes for the big boys but instead pocketing the money themselves.

Apparently, this is one way of trying to make ends meet in an era of cuts to public works spending.

The former Mizutani execs may be trying to cover up for such a scam.

In any event, the verdicts involve way too much inference for my liking.

sensevisual said...

"...I thought that including "miscarriage of justice" as one of the labels was hint enough..."

Those labels don't appear on RSS readers, at least not on Google Reader...

Fernando said...

Here's a follow-up to my previous comment: the Mizutani bigwig who supposedly handed the money to Ishikawa went alone, violating the company's buddy system rule for bribes. (Yes, apparently they have such a rule. It's supposed to ensure the money lines the proper pocket.)

This is according to Yamaguchi Kazuomi, digital supervisor at Shukan Asahi.

So, again, it seems to me to be a case of one man's word against another's, with only weak circumstantial evidence -- a coffe shop receipt -- suggesting the Mizutani guy is telling the truth.

You can listen to Yamaguchi's comments on the verdict here:

prevent the bribe money from bag man from keeping the money.)

the kind of trickery I mentioned before.)

, Following up on my previous comment, I've heard that the

Trey said...
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