Yokosuka hosts mock trial, shows U.S. court-martial process

Yokosuka hosts mock trial, shows U.S. court-martial process

by Peter Yagel
RLSO Command Services

Region Legal Service Office Japan hosted a mock trial with the Japanese Community Legal Association, March 16 on Yokosuka Naval Base, to show the process for a U.S. military court-martial.

The mock trial demonstrated military jury selection, jury instructions, opening statements and closing arguments, presentation of evidence, deliberations, and typical trial strategy.

The event supported the JCLA, which is a local private organization that focuses on building relationships with the Japanese Community, with the goal of the event being to build and cultivate meaningful relationships with the Japanese legal community, according to Lt. Caitlyn McCarthy, JCLA president. 

“The annual mock trial has proved to be an excellent opportunity to educate and grow relationships between the U.S. military and local prosecutors and future Japanese lawyers,” said McCarthy.

Japanese students also had a chance to participate in the five-hour process while prosecutors from Yokosuka and Yokohama observed the proceedings.

Students from Chuo University and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies served as members of the jury and many reflected positively about the event.

“The mock trial was a great opportunity for me to recognize commonalities and differences existing between Japanese legal structures and ones of another country because I was given the privilege to observe a court martial trial, which we seldom see.” said Gen Jinnouchi, Chuo University undergraduate freshman law student.

The students expressed to the event hosts that they learned a great deal as a result of the exchange.

“What I found most interesting was that the right of silence is more severely treated and recognized in the U.S. than in Japan,” said Riho Takano, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies undergraduate student.  “I assume that this is because ‘confession’ is regarded as a virtue in Japan.  Therefore, the accused in Japan feel more pressured to confess their crimes even if it is exaggerated too much by the prosecutor. Through this case, I have learned that the Americans attach importance to ‘the benefit of the doubt’ more than Japanese do.”

Following the event, RLSO Japan personnel engaged with law students and prosecutors for comparative law and culture discussions in a more relaxed setting, sharing drinks and appetizers at a nearby lounge.

The American participants also said they learned a great deal from the exchange.

 “As a member of the JCLA, I enjoy taking advantage of any opportunity to interact and engage with the Japanese legal community,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Forster, a RLSO legalman who plans to attend law school. “Expanding our knowledge of world cultures, including their legal systems, as well as having a chance to make new connections within the Japanese legal community, is one of the key aspects of why we perform these events year after year.”

The RLSO staff intends to continue providing logistical support to the JCLA and other private organizations seeking to enhance U.S. – Japanese cross-cultural interactions of a legal nature, said Capt. Dom Flatt, RLSO commander.

“This was another exceptional opportunity to enhance mutual understanding among U.S. and Japanese legal professionals,” said Flatt.

Many RLSO team members expressed their gratitude for all they learned during the exchange as well and echoed their desire to observe a Japanese prosecution, and possibly coordinate a Japanese mock trial from Chuo University/Tokyo University of Foreign Studies personnel in the future.

"As one of the fortunate people who have been given opportunities to engage in the activities of JCLA for about 40 years, I am truly grateful to see the success and fruit of the 2017 mock trial, which started in 2012 and has been carried out annually,” said Koichi Sekizawa, 40-year employee of RLSO Japan.  “Hearing many good comments from the students who learned the trial system of the United States court-martial was a wonderful reward for those who have been participating in many JCLA activities for the causes of academic education, charity and the promotion of the friendship of the two countries.”


Photo Caption:

Petty Officer 1st Class Chen Nee, Region Legal Service Office Japan legalman swears in Lt. Elizabeth Retter, Region Legal Service Office Japan JAG, during a mock trial hosted at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, on March 16 by RLSO Japan to support the Japanese Community Legal Association. The JCLA is an organization that works to build relationships between the Japanese legal community and the Navy legal community, and RLSO Japan supported this event in order to promote understanding and dialogue. This is the sixth time a mock trial has been held and more events such as this are planned, according to Capt. Dom Flatt, RLSO commander.

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