One of the major causes of wrongful conviction in Japan is definitely false confessions.
Why? Obviously, since a confession is still the “King of evidence” in Japan. And since the law permits a long period of detention (23 days!) before the formal charge (indictment) of a suspect, and since during this pre-charge detention period, there are lengthy interrogations by the police and prosecutors.
When and How Long can a Suspect be Detained?
In Japan, a suspect can be detained when there is a “reasonable cause” that he/she committed the crime, and there is a risk of flight or he/she might tamper with the evidence in the case. When a judge issues an arrest warrant and once the suspect is arrested (“Taiho“), the police has 48 hours to transfer the suspect and the case to prosecutors.
When prosecutors receive the suspect and if they think he/she should be detained further, they must ask a judge within 24 hours of receiving the case to issue a warrant for up to 10 days of additional detention (“Koryu“). This is when the suspect appears before a judge for the first time. Additional 10-day extension of Koryu is possible after the initial 10days. Judges almost always issue the arrest/ detention warrant. Less than 1 % of the warrant claim is denied. For violent crimes, it’s almost 0%.
To sum up, police and prosecutors can detain a suspect for up to 72 hours before the suspect has to appear before a judge, and then for additional 20 days before the formal charge (23 days in total!).
Interrogation During Detention
During this 23-day period, police and prosecutors usually interrogate the suspect for a long period of time. Conducting the interrogation is critical, even for prosecutors. Continue reading