Wrongful Convictions and the Culture of Denial in Japanese Criminal Justice

By David T. Johnson / The Asia-Pacific Journal, on 1 January 2015

The release of Hakamada Iwao from death row in March 2014 after 48 years of incarceration provides an opportunity to reflect on wrongful convictions in Japanese criminal justice. My approach is comparative because this problem cannot be understood without asking how Japan compares with other countries: to know only one country is to know no country well. Comparison with the United States is especially instructive because there have been many studies of wrongful conviction there and because the U.S. and Japan are the only two developed democracies that retain capital punishment and continue to carry out executions on a regular basis. On the surface, the United States seems to have a more serious problem with wrongful convictions than Japan, but this gap is more apparent than real. To reduce the problem of wrongful convictions in Japanese criminal justice, reformers must confront a culture of denial that makes it difficult for police, prosecutors, and judges to acknowledge their own mistakes.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list Japan
  • Themes list Fair Trial, Innocence,