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The capital punishment system and current standards for collateral review of capital sentences appear quite similar in the United States and Japan. On a deeper level, though, the systems are moving in very different directions. Given. the extensive literature on capital punishment and capital habeas in the United States, this article focuses chiefly on Japan, examining the process by which the standards governing postconviction review have been relaxed and the impact of that change. Japan's Supreme Court bears the image of being a highly conservative, passive institution resistant to dramatic .change of any sort. Yet this examination reveals that, in the area of post-conviction review of capital sentences, individual Japanese Justices were able to effectuate changes in standards they believed to be mistaken. At a broader level, this examination also discloses very different attitudes toward the adversary process, the role of courts in criminal proceedings, the notions of speed and finality, and punishment itself in the criminal justice systems of the two nations.



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