The GCUA College Scholar Series presents a talk titled "Is Death Different? Capital Punishment in the United States and Japan," a talk by David T. Johnson, professor of sociology, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Japan and the United States are the only two developed democracies that retain capital punishment and continue to carry out executions on a regular basis. In the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled that because death is a “different” form of criminal punishment in its severity and irreversibility, special procedures and protections are necessary to ensure that it is administered in a manner that is fair, just, and accurate. By contrast, in Japanese law and practice, death is not deemed to be different, despite frequent invocations of the need to be “cautious about capital punishment.” Professor Johnson's paper describes the contours of Japanese capital punishment, explains how it has changed since the advent of a new lay judge trial system in 2009, and identifies several ways in which the premise that death is not different leads to problems in Japanese law and practice. The law of capital punishment can fail in at least two ways. In America law fails to fulfill many of its promises, while in Japan law fails by refusing to make many promises at all.