Hiroshi Motomura, right, the bereaved family of a woman and her baby girl who were killed in 1999, speaks at a press conference after the defendant was sentenced to death. (Mainichi)Thirteen years after a mother and her baby daughter were murdered in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the defendant's appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court, effectively setting his death sentence in stone.
"The appeal is rejected," announced Presiding Judge Seishi Kanetsuki at 3 p.m. on Feb. 20. Hiroshi Motomura, 35, whose then 23-year-old wife and 11-month-old daughter were murdered in 1999, had been listening to the sentence with his eyes shut, carrying photos of his loved ones in his arms. He bowed deeply toward the four justices assigned to the case, and turned to the mother of his dead wife.
"It's been a long journey," he said to her.
At a press conference held at the Legal Press Club in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district later that day, Motomura started out by saying: "Thank you for your continued interest in the case for 13 years."
"The past 13 years were years of agony. I'm satisfied as a bereaved family member, but in no way do I feel any joy," Motomura went on to say. "There are no winners in the sentence."
The defendant-turned-death-row-inmate, now 30, had been 18 years old at the time of the murders. Motomura said he ruminated over and over about whether the perpetrator should be given another chance or pay for his transgressions with his life. But Motomura seemed sure of the court decision after it was handed down.
"Japan has the death penalty, according to which an 18-year-old can be sentenced to death. I see the sentence as one the judges agonized over without getting caught up in the number of victims, and astutely assessing the defendant," Motomura told reporters.
The Supreme Court pointed out in its sentence that the defendant's denial of any intent to kill, in complete contrast to his statements in earlier court proceedings, was an "absurd excuse."
Motomura, meanwhile, seemed at times torn, saying: "If the defendant had showed remorse, he would not have been sentenced to death. It's a shame. The courts decided not to give the defendant a chance to start fresh. I hope he reflects over his crime, moves beyond it, and accepts the sentence."
The case led to improvements in the rights of victims' families, including priority in obtaining the right to observe trial proceedings and permission to make statements to the defendant in court. Meanwhile, Motomura also said he resented being characterized by the public as a death penalty advocate after he was shown displaying raw emotion in court and elsewhere.
"Time has been my most treasured confidant. It's allowed me to view the case with level-headedness," Motomura told reporters. "I hope we don't put 3 lives (of my wife, daughter, and the defendant) to waste, and use this as an opportunity to attain a society in which we wouldn't have to use the death penalty."
At the end of the hour-long press conference, during which Motomura spoke to reporters quietly, in a reserved tone, he revealed that he'd remarried in 2009, and has been visiting the graves of his then wife and daughter with his new wife. Of his new partner, Motomura said: "She's a wonderful person who can support a weak person like me. I think it's important that I don't go through life with my head down, hanging on to the case, and instead look forward and live with a smile."
Meanwhile, Kenji Utsunomiya, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, released a comment expressing regret toward the court's decision. "It fails to consider the unique characteristics of juvenile cases ... I once again seek that the government undertake a drastic review toward the abolition of the death penalty for defendants who are underage at the time crimes are committed," he said.
(source: Mainichi Daily News)