Death penalty given to minor for 1st time in lay judge trial
(Mainichi Japan) November 25, 2010
SENDAI (Kyodo) -- A 19-year-old male accused of killing two women and seriously wounding a man earlier this year in Miyagi Prefecture was sentenced to death Thursday, the first time capital punishment has been given to a minor under the lay judge trial system that began last year.
A panel of three professional and six citizen judges made the decision at the Sendai District Court in northeastern Japan.
The ruling came after the Yokohama District Court last week handed down the first death sentence under the lay judge system to a 32-year-old man found guilty of brutally murdering two men last year.
In the latest case, Presiding Judge Nobuyuki Suzuki sentenced the defendant to death, finding him guilty of stabbing to death his former girlfriend's 20-year-old elder sister, Mika Nambu, and her 18-year-old friend Mikako Omori, and seriously injuring a man who was with them at the time of the crime on Feb. 10 in Ishinomaki.
He then took away his former girlfriend, 18, and injured her in the left leg, the court's findings showed.
The name of the defendant is being withheld as he is a minor under 20.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for the defendant who committed the crime while on probation in a separate criminal case, arguing it is unlikely he could be rehabilitated in the future.
The defendant had pleaded guilty as charged.
Death penalty sought for minor in lay judge trial
20th November, 2010
Prosecutors asked the Sendai District Court on Friday to sentence a 19-year-old man to death over double murders, marking the first case in which capital punishment has been sought for a minor under a lay judge trial.
The defendant stabbed to death his ex-girlfriend’s 20-year-old sister and an 18-year-old friend, and seriously injured a man who was with them at the time of the crime on Feb. 10 in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, the complaint said. He then took away his ex-girlfriend, 18, and injured her.
During the trial, the defense counsel said he did not intend to kill them when he broke into their house and that he can be rehabilitated as he has shown remorse for his actions.
The prosecutors argued that the fact he is a minor does not have any meaning in such a serious crime and there is no reason for avoiding the death sentence.
It is the fourth case in which randomly selected citizen judges weigh the possibility of a death sentence since the lay judge system was introduced last year. The ruling is scheduled to be handed down next Thursday.
Death penalty to stand for man over 2010 murder as minor
A death sentence given to a man convicted of murdering two women and seriously injuring another man in 2010 when he was 18 is set to be finalized after the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld lower court rulings.
The case of Yutaro Chiba, now 24, marks the first time capital punishment has been given to a minor under Japan’s lay judge trial system that began in 2009.
In handing down the ruling, the top court’s first petty bench said the defendant committed the crime based on a “very selfish motive” as he was determined to kill anyone who sabotaged his plan to run away with his former girlfriend.
According to rulings by the Sendai district and high courts, Chiba was guilty of stabbing to death his former girlfriend’s older sister Misa Nambu, 20, and her 18-year-old friend Mikako Omori, and seriously injuring a man who was with them at the time of the crime on Feb. 10 in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
“Even if his age (as a minor) and having no criminal record is taken into account . . . his criminal responsibility is grave,” the Supreme Court said, indicating that the death penalty cannot be avoided in line with the top court standards set in 1983 in the case of Norio Nagayama.
Chiba is the seventh person whose death penalty has effectively been finalized for a crime committed by a minor since the so-called Nagayama standard which, in applying capital punishment, took into account factors such as the number of victims, brutality and social impact of the crimes.
Nagayama was a death row inmate who was hanged in 1997 for killing four people when he was 19.
On Thursday, all five justices on the bench, presided by Justice Naoto Otani, unanimously rejected the appeal against Chiba’s death sentence.
In terms of murders of two people for a person under 20 at the time of the crimes, Chiba will be the second to be sentenced to death, following a man convicted of murdering a woman and her baby girl in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, when he was 18.
Outside court, Chiba’s chief lawyer, Hiroyuki Kusaba, criticized the ruling as being unacceptable.
The court “does not at all take into consideration how the defendant’s environment affected his character, and also does not give any explanation about this,” Kusaba said, referring to his client’s difficult childhood.
According to court testimonies by Chiba, his mother, and others, Chiba was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was 5. His mother, who repeatedly divorced and remarried, suffered violence from her boyfriend and later became addicted to alcohol. He was then raised by his grandmother’s side.
As demanded by prosecutors, a panel of three professional and six citizen judges gave the death penalty to Chiba at the district court in November 2010.
The court said it cannot just take into account his age when he committed the crime, given the brutality of the crime and the impact in terms of number of victims.
The Sendai High Court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Chiba’s lawyers had sought leniency for their client to avoid the death penalty, arguing he was “immature” at the time and that his crime was “not premeditated.”
Head of Japan lawyers' group criticizes media for naming ex-minor s... http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/17/national/crime-legal/h...
NATIONAL / CRIME & LEGAL
Head of Japan lawyers’ group criticizes media for naming
ex-minor sentenced to death
ARTICLE HISTORY JUN 17, 2016 The head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations on Friday criticized news organizations that reported
the name of a man sentenced to death for a double murder committed when he was a juvenile.
“It is regrettable that the news reports violated the juvenile law, which bans publishing articles and photographs that could identify a juvenile delinquent,” Kazuhiro Nakamoto, president of the federation, said in a statement.
The statement was issued after the Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that sentenced to death the man who was 18 when he killed two women and seriously injured a man in 2010.
Major newspapers including the Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun and Nikkei daily, as well as Kyodo News published the man’s name on the grounds that the opportunity for rehabilitation ends when a death penalty is finalized, and the name of a person to be executed by the state should not be kept confidential.
Some other major newspapers, including the Mainichi and the Tokyo Shimbun, reported the Supreme Court decision without revealing the name of the man to be executed, saying the chance for his rehabilitation remains due to the possibility of amnesty or retrial.
The Japan Times has also chosen to name the man in its reporting.
Nakamoto said the dignity and the constitutionally-guaranteed right to the pursuit of happiness of a minor are not terminated with the finalization of a death sentence.
“While it is needless to say that constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression is important and it is necessary to report the details of a crime in order to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, it cannot be said the real name and photo of a minor are indispensable factors for news reports,” he said.
Analysis: Top court should explain death penalty for man who killed 2 as a minor
Lawyer Hiroyuki Kusaba, center, and others are seen at a news conference in Tokyo on June 16, 2016, after the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of murdering two people when he was 18. (Mainichi)
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold lower court rulings that sentenced a man to death for murdering two people and injuring another when he was 18 has shown there are limits to taking into account the possibility of defendants rehabilitating themselves and their ages in trials over heinous juvenile crimes.
While lay judges participated in the trial of the case at a district court, the top court determined that it was inevitable to choose the death penalty against the defendant, who was 18 years and seven months old at the time of the crime, considering that the crime was carefully premeditated and he murdered two people.
The decision marks the first time for a death sentence that was handed down in a lay judge trial to a defendant who was a minor at the time of the crime to be finalized.
In a 2006 ruling over the 1999 murder of a woman and her child in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the top court stated that the fact that the defendant was 18 at the time of the crime "isn't a decisive factor for avoiding the death penalty." This ruling is said to have offered direction for dealing out harsh punishments against those who commit heinous crimes when they were 18 and 19.
When overturning a high court ruling that handed the death sentence to Norio Nagayama in 1983 for murdering four people in 1968 when he was 19, the Supreme Court showed what is now known as the "Nagayama Criteria," which demanded that courts take into consideration nine points in deciding whether to choose the death penalty. The nine points include the characteristics of the incidents, the numbers of victims and the ages at which the defendants committed the crimes.
Still, the top court stopped short of clarifying to what extent each point should be weighed.
Courts have been almost evenly split in their judgments on defendants convicted of murdering two people -- between the death penalty and life imprisonment -- even in case the defendants are adults. This highlights the lack of clarity of the Nagayama Criteria.
The Juvenile Act bans the death penalty against those aged below 18, in consideration of the possibility of such young offenders rehabilitating themselves in the future. The death sentences for five defendants in three cases, handed down after the top court showed the Nagayama Criteria, have been finalized. Among these three cases, the 1999 Hikari incident is the only one in which two people were murdered. When prosecutors demanded the death penalty for a defendant, even professional judges who tried the case faced difficulties in judging how far they should respect the spirit of the Juvenile Act.
Since the latest top court ruling made no mention of the possibility of the defendant rehabilitating himself, it is impossible to see how top court justices discussed the spirit of the Juvenile Act and drew a conclusion.
Psychological pressure on lay judges who face the choice between the death penalty or otherwise is immeasurable. Therefore, the Supreme Court should proactively show the details of discussions between justices that led to the conclusion that the death penalty was inevitable. (By Nobuyuki Shimada, Tokyo City News Department)