The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by a 30-year-old man who was given
the death penalty for the murders of a woman and her baby girl in
Hikari,Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999 when he was 18.
The decision by the country's top court marks the 1st time the death penalty
has effectively been finalized for the murders of 2 people for a person under
20 at the time of the crimes since court guidelines on capital crimes committed
by minors were issued in 1983.
The man could still ask the highest court for an amendment over technicalities
such as an error in the wording of the ruling within 10 days. But such a
request has never led the court to review a ruling.
Death sentences have previously been given to 5 people who committed murders as
minors, but in each of the three cases involved, the number of victims was 4.
The ruling by the top court's first petty bench presided over by Justice Seishi
Kanetsuki, branded the crime "very evil" and said there was no room for
leniency and that the death penalty was "inevitable" despite the man being a
minor at the time of the murders.
It also said, "Despite a severe sense of victimization by the bereaved family,
sincere remorse is not seen as the defendant made irrational pleas" over the
matter of whether he had intention to kill the victims and the way he committed
Under the Juvenile Act, which defines juveniles as those under the age of 20,
the death penalty can be applied to defendants aged 18 at the time of the
crime. The law prohibits reporting of the names of suspects or defendants in
juvenile crime cases.
The top court supported the Hiroshima High Court's ruling in 2008 that handed
down a penalty of capital punishment on the man, overturning the Yamaguchi
District Court's ruling that found him guilty but sentenced him to life in
prison. The defense had appealed the high court ruling of capital punishment.
Koji Miyakawa, a justice on the court's panel, expressed a dissenting view,
saying the man's mentality appeared to be immature compared with his real age
and that capital punishment should be avoided.
Hiroshi Motomura, the 35-year-old husband of the murdered woman, said at a
press conference, "A death sentence was given. That's what I wanted. Even at
the age of 18, a death penalty can be handed down on a criminal who does not
repent of his act."
Motomura also said he wants the man to face the sentence in a sincere manner.
According to the high court ruling, the man broke into the Motomuras' apartment
in the western Japanese city on April 14, 1999, while Motomura was away and
strangled his 23-year-old wife Yayoi and their 11-month-old daughter Yuka. He
also raped the wife. The man lived near the family.
In 2002, the high court had upheld the ruling of life imprisonment by the lower
court but the top court ordered the high court in 2006 to review the ruling,
saying his age at the time of the crime was not a sufficient reason for
avoiding the death penalty.
(source: The Mainichi Daily News)