Wed, 22 Mar 2000

Strange verdicts in the U.S.

Local television as well as the March 6 edition of Newsweek reported that four policemen shot dead an African-American in New York. The unarmed man stood in front of his own apartment door and was shot 41 times, after he allegedly put his hand into his pocket and the policemen thought he was just about to pull out a gun. The jury acquitted the policemen. The legal system in the U.S. has it that the jury, which is made up of ordinary citizens -- who have impeccable records as law-abiding people -- decides whether the defendant is guilty or not and the judge passes the sentence, whether the defendant gets off, spends a couple of years behind bars or loses his life in the electric chair or through lethal injection.

Another event occurred a couple of years ago in the U.S. It was Halloween, the day when children dress in costumes and go trick or treating. A Japanese exchange student and his American friend, looking for a house where they were to attend a Halloween party, lost their way as the sun went down and it got dark. They walked onto the property of the wrong house when suddenly a man with a shotgun appeared and barked: "Freeze". The Japanese boy, who did not understand that "freeze" in that situation meant "don't move", walked forward and was fatally shot in the chest. The jury in this case decided that it was a tragic misunderstanding and pronounced the man not guilty.

A lovesick female employer was infatuated by a male employee. She allegedly made amorous advances and harassed the man until one day he filed charges against her in court. The court ruled in favor of the man and ordered the woman pay him substantial compensation.

When I told my Japanese guests this story during a dinner party, all of them laughed loudly. Naturally, they reasoned that a man harassing a woman is a common occurrence, but the other way around?