The Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court on Thursday upheld the death
sentence for a 24-year-old man convicted of killing his wife, baby and
mother-in-law in the city of Miyazaki in March 2010.
Siding with the lay-judge trial decision handed down by the Miyazaki District
Court in 2010, presiding Judge Takumi Enomoto said the defendant, Akihiro
Okumoto, committed "cold-blooded and atrocious crimes" because of his
"self-indulgent and self-centered motives."
It is the second case in which capital punishment in a lay-judge trial has been
appealed, and the second in which the sentence has been upheld.
Defense lawyers had sought life imprisonment, saying the district court reached
the wrong conclusion regarding motive. In the appeal, handled only by
professional judges, Okumoto was given a psychiatric test in an attempt to
establish his motive.
Judge Enomoto said the test shows that Okumoto committed the killings mainly
because his mother-in-law had sternly rebuked him, noting that this finding was
"not irrational" but adding other factors may have been in play.
The judge said the district court "made no mistakes" in determining Okumoto
killed his family because he "wanted to be free and live alone."
Enomoto acknowledged that the defendant deeply regrets his crimes and has the
potential to be rehabilitated, but concluded the district court ruling must
stand due to his extreme disregard for the lives of the 3 and for murdering his
wife and son "without due reason."
One of the lay judges who served in the district court trial said he was hoping
the high court would show some leniency because it was painful to be personally
involved in a decision to sentence a man to hang.
Okumoto was convicted of strangling and drowning his 5-month-old son, Yuto, in
a bathtub at his home on March 1, 2010, killing his wife, Kumiko, 24, and her
50-year-old mother, Takako Ikegami, with a kitchen knife and a hammer, and then
burying the boy's body in a nearby yard.
(source: Japan Times)