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Saturday, April 28, 2012
Prosecutors' changing attitude
The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office on April 5 announced that public prosecutors electronically recorded the entire interrogation process in about 40 percent of 69 suspects in cases unearthed by the prosecutors.
The electronic recording of the interrogation of mentally disabled suspects and suspects in cases to be handled by lay judge trials is also being expanded.
The office is scheduled to make public in June a detailed report on how public prosecutors have approached this issue. Among prosecutors, opinion is divided over whether the entire interrogation process should be electronically recorded.
The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office should not use this as an excuse to delay moving forward and officially institutionalizing the electronic recording of interrogations in their entirety, which thus far has been done only on a trial basis.
The April 5 report covers 69 suspects arrested by the special investigation squads of the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya district public prosecutors offices and the special criminal divisions of 10 district prosecution offices in 10 other major cities.
The entire interrogation process was electronically recorded for 28 suspects, with each interrogation lasting an average 61 hours. Partial recordings were done for 39 suspects. The remaining two suspects refused to let prosecutors electronically record their testimony.
Cases have been reported in which a suspect refused to testify because a video camera was running or because a suspect asked to have the recording stopped, fearing the possibility that an accomplice might watch the recorded testimony.
Some prosecutors fear that in cases involving politicians, electronic recording may make it difficult to get testimony from suspects.
But the introduction of electronic recording of the whole interrogation process will lead investigators to make serious efforts to collect direct evidence. It has been reported that although some prosecutors were first negative about such recordings, their thinking has changed.
In the trial of former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, it surfaced that a prosecutor had made up statements regarding what Mr. Ozawa's former secretary said during his interrogation.
Prosecution authorities should not shy away from enforcing electronic recording of the whole process of interrogation.