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Friday, Sept. 11, 2009

Six years urged for crimes done as minor


Staff writer

SAITAMA — Prosecutors demanded a six-year prison term Thursday for a 20-year-old Filipino man, the first non-Japanese to be tried before a lay judge court since the new criminal trial system began in May.

But his counsel said 3 1/2 years would be more appropriate, as the defendant was a minor when he committed his crimes and deeply regrets them.

The six lay judges and three professional judges at the Saitama District Court are to hand down a verdict Friday afternoon. They have been hearing his case since Tuesday.

The man stands accused of attacking two men in Saitama and Toda along with two boys, and robbing them of their money and belongings on two separate occasions in December.

"I would like to be rehabilitated. If you feel it necessary, please send me to prison," the defendant said in Japanese to the bench before the proceedings closed Thursday. "I have caused so much trouble to the victims and their families and friends, and provoked fear. And I have caused trouble to society, and I am very sorry."

Prosecutors said the crimes were planned and repeated, and the fact that he was on probation when the alleged crimes were committed meant he needs a good amount of time to be corrected in prison.

The defense team, however, said their client's upbringing prevented him from growing up properly. His counsel even said an extended term could be an option. But should the bench decide to hand down a prison term for the defendant, they said a lighter sentence than demanded was suitable.

Before lay judge trials began, defense lawyers hardly ever suggested how long a prison term was suitable for their clients to the professional judges. But more defense lawyers are making their opinion known to give lay judges a reference point along with the prosecution's demand when they consider a prison term.

Two Tagalog court interpreters took turns and translated, word for word, all the questions and answers during the defendant's questioning. The defendant, who came to Japan when he was 14 years old, testified mostly in Japanese, but even then everything was translated into Tagalog for his benefit.



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