JIN-277 -- Baker Redux -- Meet the New Boss ...

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 277
Thursday, June 17, 2004

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Baker Redux -- Meet the New Boss ...

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Baker Redux -- Meet the New Boss ...

We strolled down to the Tokyo high court this morning to watch the
opening day of the appeal by Nick Baker. JIN readers may recall that
the unfortunate Briton was last year sentenced to a long stretch in
jail for a drugs smuggling charge he strenuously denied.

The rights and wrongs of this case are not for us to decide -- Baker's
contention has always been that he was tricked into carrying the drugs
through Narita customs, while the prosecutors have always said that he
was a knowing link in a vast global narcotics ring.

But what struck us most dramatically was the quite stunning sluggishness
and inflexibility of the Japanese legal system.

The last time we saw Baker was almost exactly a year ago, when he was
led away from the district court in Chiba -- a weeping, broken man. He
spent most of that trial shaking uncontrollably and pulling at his hair.

This time, however, he seemed far more collected and thoughtful-looking.
Occasionally he would write things down or mutter things to his lawyer.
In the gallery were a few of the now numerous well-wishers who have been
fighting for a fair trial for Nick.

But we once again left the court disappointed both in the likely outcome
of the appeal and in the system in general. Baker's lawyer has spent the
past 12 months carefully working up a comprehensive rebuttal of the
evidence and methodology of the original trial. It took a long time to
read out his opening statement, and its contents were extremely detailed.
When it came to the response from the prosecutor, the equivalent statement
felt like it had been written on the bus en route to the court: a couple
of minutes of weakly-argued generalities. When we spoke to the lawyers
afterwards, they said that this imbalance -- even in the high court ・
was absolutely normal.

Baker's next day in court is a month from now, but to look at the judges
and the lackluster statements by the prosecution, we already have a
pretty bad feeling about this appeal. Increasingly, we are left with the
impression that Japanese trials are decided long before the defendant
walks into the room, and nothing that happened this morning served to
suggest otherwise.

-- The Editors


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Written and edited by Roland Kelts and
Leo Lewis (editors@japaninc.com)


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