Once you are arrested, the press spread stories as if you had really committed a crime. Millions of people would believe such stories. Long before the trial starts, you would be stigmatized as a criminal and excluded from our society.
The first thing I had learned as a law student was the principle of presumption of innocence. My professor stressed the importance of this principle, saying “a defendant cannot be treated as a criminal just because he is under arrest. The defendant must be deemed innocent unless the prosecutor proves his guilt in a open court beyond a reasonable doubt.” I found that to be a criminal defense lawyer, that is to fight and argue for the accused who are publicly condemned and so powerless, is a wonderful job.
After graduating from university, I passed the bar examination. I was so thrilled to think myself working in courtrooms, where a presumption of innocence was supposed to be rooted. My dream was, however, immediately shattered. Even judges, who should judge only based on laws believe press stories when they preside the cases. “The defendant must be guilty because the prosecutor charged the case through scrutinizing the evidence”, “ ‘Presumption of innocence’? Be practical.” This is the reality of what judges think. This is the reality and this is the reason that causes the 99% conviction rate. Although the law clearly provides that bail is a defendant’s right, the judges hardly grant the application for bail. The judges allow almost all the evidence prosecutors request, and what is more, they sometimes find evidence by themselves and offer them to trials on behalf of the prosecutors. On the contrary, the judges often deny the defense counsels’ offering their witnesses without any reason. This reality can easily lead to guilty verdict against those who are innocent.
Through my practices as a defense counsel for a few years, I turned to be so desperate of the criminal justice system. I felt only emptiness with criminal defense work in this country. One day, however, I came across a case, in which a young lady was accused for murder her newborn baby. The lady in her twenties working in a department store, had been dating with a married musician guy, resulting in her pregnancy. She desired to get married with him and to have her baby. However, her married boyfriend did not accept it. One day, labor pain suddenly came while she was working. She ran into the medical room of her workplace. She gave birth to her baby while suffering from acute pain which made her pass out.
She was arrested after her newborn baby had died. Despite her immediate birth, the police made her sit on a cold and hard iron chair to interrogate her harshly for hours and hours. She claimed to the police that she never killed her baby, but the police did not listen to her. A detective said to her, who almost lost her consciousness with pain and exhaustion, “You must have put your thigh on the nose to choke your baby!” After all, she signed on a confession statement.
I was appointed to be a defense counsel for her. Her story convinced me that she was indeed innocent. Experimenting with putting my thigh on my own baby girl, I believed that nobody could know where the baby’s nose was. I consulted with an ob-gyn doctor, and he explained to me that the autopsy report showed a possibility of stillbirth. I detected a conclusive mistake in a way of analysis used by the prosecutor’s medical expert witness who claimed that the baby was live birth, not stillbirth. Subsequently I found many facts one after another that proved her innocence. At the same time, I had been increasing a sense of distrust of the judge in charge of the case. I made up my mind that I would quit my job if this case would end up with a conviction judgement.
The bench trial continued for nearly three years. During the case pending, the chief judge was replaced. The new judge was a little different from the former. He carefully examined evidence in a fair attitude. He was eager to listen to my client. He suppressed the evidence of my client’s confession, reasoning that the police coerced her to confess without considering her health condition. In the end of the trial, the judge acquitted her. After reading the long verdict, the judge glanced up to look in my client’s eyes and said, “I am sincerely sorry for detaining you for such a long time. I just hope that you will find your way to make yourself happy.”
This is what happened more than 25 years ago. My client and the chief judge of this case made me determine to keep practicing criminal defense.
After 20 years of working as a lawyer in Saitama prefecture, I had an opportunity to teach Criminal Law and Criminal Defense in Waseda Law School. In 2009, I opened a law office in Akihabara. Fortunately, many young lawyers expressed their desire to work together. In this way, the Law Office of Takashi Takano, dedicated mostly to criminal cases, was established with a motto “Best Defense for All”.
We hereby commit ourselves to provide the best defense in any case. We promise never giving up to defend you thoroughly, no matter how difficult or tough it is.
The Law office of Takashi Takano
Takashi TAKANO, Representative Partner