13 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
"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
"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 three
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
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: The Mainichi Daily News)