PUBLISHED:November 08, 2010

International prosecutors — LLM candidates and visitors — discuss high-profile prosecutions

A panel of veteran international prosecutors offered a comparative look at how their offices handle high-profile cases during an International Week event on Oct. 26.

Jae Bin Cho of Korea, Nir Shnaiderman of Israel, and Tsung-Hao Chen of Taiwan are all pursuing LLM degrees at Duke; Ryohei Oda of Japan is a visiting scholar.

The panelists discussed the structure of the judicial system in their home countries and provided examples of cases that have generated significant public attention. These high-profile cases are important because they shape public perceptions of fairness in the judicial system, the panelists agreed.

Cho recounted his involvement in 2008 as a member of an independent counsel team investigating South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who faced fraud allegations related to speculative real estate purchases and stocks. Prosecutors had twice investigated the case, but the general public did not believe the result, he explained.

During a 40-day probe Cho summoned 46 people for questioning and convinced the president to let him search a building he owned despite the fact that a search-and-seizure warrant had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence. The previous prosecutorial team did not search buildings the president owned.

“As I prepared my final report on the investigation I knew the Korean people had made the right choice as president,” said Cho, a former member of Korea’s Ministry of Justice as well as the Supreme Prosecutors Office. “He was clearly innocent.”

Shnaiderman prosecuted more than 500 cases during his 10 years in Israel’s Central District Attorneys Office. He spoke of the importance of “winning the crowd” when it comes to public perception.

“Until 10 years ago we had this policy that the prosecutors only speak in court. Then we understood that winning the trial is not about what happens in court. It doesn’t really matter what happens in court. It matters what people outside the court think,” Shnaiderman said. “It’s really hard, I must say. Anything you say can be expressed in a different way by any journalist, but still we got to the point that we understand that you can’t win the crowd without the journalism.

“Another thing is limiting what we can say, so we don’t just say anything that we think,” he continued. “We still have to follow what our leaders do, what the chief prosecutor does, what the attorney general says, but in that range we do speak to journalists, and we find it successful.”

All four panelists stated that spokesmen serve as the primary conduit for information about trials in their home countries with varying degrees of culpability for lawyers or journalists who circumvent this system.

Prosecutor’s offices in Korea enforce penalties for lawyers or journalists who do not follow protocol, noted Cho, a veteran of both Korea’s Ministry of Justice and its Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. Oda, who served as a prosecutor in more than 800 jury trials for Japan’s Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office, said the same holds true in Japan.

“Journalists can contact the spokesman. The spokesman is usually in the deputy chief prosecutor’s office,” Oda said. “If the journalist violates the guideline the journalist is strictly prohibited from entering the building and prosecutor’s office. It’s a very strict guideline.”
he Office of International Studies, International Law Society, and Asian Law Students Association jointly sponsored the event, which was held as part of the Law School’s 10th annual International Week. Professor Lisa Kern Griffin, a former federal prosecutor, moderated the discussion.

View a webcast of the panel discussion.