Japan’s Ministry of Justice was looking for guidance in how other prosecutorial agencies address witness immunity and leniency.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is where officials in Tokyo turned.
Attorney Naoya Maeda of the Ministry of Justice travelled from Tokyo to Los Angeles in January and has received an up-close, two-month-long look at the largest local prosecutorial office in the United States that few outsiders have experienced.
He said his time in Los Angeles was spurred by a call in Japan to update criminal justice procedures. There have been demands for reform based on criticism that the Japanese criminal justice system relies too heavily on confessions of the accused.
Maeda has explored the District Attorney’s procedures involving the proper handling of cooperating witnesses and informants. Throughout his time here, he has consulted with Professional Responsibility Advisor Cynthia Nakao. He also has met with District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
He has spent time observing and discussing issues with prosecutors in the Hardcore Gang, Major Crimes, Major Narcotics, Public Integrity and White Collar Crime divisions and the Norwalk and Long Beach branch offices. He also took in a Project LEAD class with Deputy District Attorney Scott Dominguez.
The volume of cases, the number of prosecutors and the pace of work were striking to Maeda.
During a meeting with Paul Nunez, assistant head deputy in the Hardcore Gang Division, “we were constantly being interrupted,” Maeda said. “People were coming to him with question after question.”
He said he was impressed not only with the legal knowledge of District Attorney personnel but also their character.
“I think people working here fully understand how important what they are doing is (and are) proud of it,” Maeda said.
“This has been a great opportunity to build a relationship between the Ministry of Justice and the District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “I hope this good relationship will continue forever.”