CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUE: Hattori and Paeris, a Cultural Tragedy.
Let me preface everything I write in this paper by saying that this is one of the most unfortunate tragic situations arising out of cultural differences and misunderstandings I have come across. It was a misunderstanding as an initial incident and the developed situation still seems to have some misplaced issues. A parent’s grief at the loss of their child has to be the most painful type of grief in all of humanity.
I feel that there is a misplaced emphasis on the gun laws in the USA by the Hattori family. I am going to qualify that statement by saying that though Japan seems to have a parallel in their legal system for lesser homicide offenses for which less moral culpability is ascribed and less punishment is given (Lobinger 1919, p.376-77). Obviously this criminal case ended in a complete exculpation, but this is not a type of situation that cannot occur in Japan. Killing by one human by another can be done with hands, knives, vehicles, falling pianos, you name it. The means of killing is not really the issue in this case.
Just briefly, the “actus reus” was obviously there. A young person is dead and the killer admitted to an excusable/justifiable homicide. In japan there is a 99% conviction rate due to their use of interrogation in the criminal law process. They have a situation where they know that innocent people are confessing (Oi, 2013). We would consider that a cruel and unusual thing which violates a person’s natural right not to incriminate themselves. In a way it probably keeps their society very wary of ever breaking the law.
In the article we read from our student portal (Booth, 1993) we see that in general the Japanese view the United States as a “savage and paranoid place”. Firearms are a part of our constitution and our culture, our history and our progress as a nation. I don’t think that it is possible for a small island empire culture to understand a sprawling, expansive manifest destiny culture like ours with respect to our 2nd Amendment. This isn’t a 2nd Amendment paper though.
The issue here is Mens Rea. The Guilty mind of manslaughter is malice without premeditation and deliberation. Voluntary manslaughter is defined as the unlawful and intentional killing of another human being, without malice or deliberation, upon a sudden heat of passion caused by adequate provocation. The thing that makes this case a tragedy is the fact that there was “adequate provocation”, but the provocation was not intended as provocation nor was it motivated by any ill will. A cultural misunderstanding of Halloween and also the word freeze.
Reasonability is the other issue here. This was a criminally excusable killing. Mr. Peairs, alarmed by his wife’s shout to “get the gun” got his gun and then saw a strangely dressed young man with what appeared to be a weapon, the camera case. How much more tragic can this thing get, a kid is dressed strangely because we have this yearly cultural event where we dress up in strange outfits and scare people. I guess he just got the date and address wrong as well. He apparently also did not understand what “freeze” meant, that and also that “freeze” usually means somebody is pointing a gun at you in this country. It is deemed reasonable in our country in a criminal law case to act with decisive violence of action when one believes their life or the life of their family to be in danger.
We get to the civil case and Mr. Pearis is found liable for having acted “unreasonably”. The communication between the Peairs’ was deemed to be insufficient to properly ascertain the threat (Leagle, 1995). The Hattori family was awarded a $650,000 judgment and have been paid $100,000 by an insurance company. The Hattoris have started a 2 foundations, one for US foreign exchange students who wish to visit Japan, and the other to lobby for changes in gun laws in this country.
This situation did not have anything to do with a gun law issue. Our 2nd Amendment is one of the original bill of rights. Mr. Peairs was constitutionally and statutorily lawfully in possession of a weapon. He had no red flags, no mental problems. He was a man who was right on the borderline of situational reasonability due to a heat of the moment fear for his and his family’s safety. The other issue here is the basic long established standards of proof of shadow of a doubt in a criminal case and preponderance of evidence in a civil trial. Another difference between the trials, which might add to the confusion is that it was a wrongful death and survival action which is not an exact parallel to voluntary manslaughter in a criminal court (Leagle, 1995). These actions are not the same the way assault and battery in a criminal case and assault and battery in a tort case are the same basic legal prima facie elements.
Lobinger S.L. Homicide Concept, 9 J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 373 (May 1918 to
Oi M. (2013, January) Japan crime: Why do innocent people confess?
BBC World Service Tokyo. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20810572
Booth W. (May, 1993). Jury Acquits Man Who Shot Japanese Youth: Crime: Panel deliberates
only 3 hours before clearing Louisiana man. Victim’s father will push drive to limit
availability of guns in U.S.
Hattori v. Peairs, 662 So. 2d 509 (La. Ct. App. 1995). Case brief retrieved from Leagle.