Writer: Juvenile killer not a 'devil'
The Japan Times: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
First sentenced to life, then death, accused was abused, name-naming book says
By MASAMI ITO
Beyond sensationalism: Michiko Masuda speaks to The Japan Times last month in Tokyo about her recently published book.
It all began with a letter from a condemned killer.
"I am pretty scared. I am about to lose heart. There are days when I tremble (with fear). I want to go to sleep in someone's arms," the man wrote from the Hiroshima Detention Center.
"That aside, I am looking forward to meeting you."
The 2008 letter was written in response to a request from then freelance journalist Michiko Masuda to meet the man, who is currently appealing his death sentence.
In a widely reported case, the man was found guilty of raping and strangling Yayoi Motomura, 23, and her 11-month-old daughter, Yuka, in 1999 in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Masuda, who currently does clerical work at Hitotsubashi University, is the author of the controversial book "X wo Koroshite Nani ni naru" ("What's to be Gained by Killing X"). (The name of the man, who was 18 when he committed the crimes, is used in the actual title of the book but withheld here.)
"For a case that was the target of a media war, there seemed to be very little about (the man's) humanity," Masuda said in a recent interview with The Japan Times. "He was wrapped up in a veil, without a name or face."
The book documents Masuda's many interviews with the convicted killer, who first allowed her to make his name public.
Then in an about-face and despite the book's questioning the purpose of his death sentence, the man asked the Hiroshima District Court to halt publication of the book and sued Masuda for damages, arguing that divulging the name of someone who committed a crime as a minor violates the Juvenile Law.
Masuda said that after repeatedly meeting the man, who is now 28, she didn't want to refer to him by a pseudonym.
"I didn't want the readers to just see criminal A," Masuda said. "True, he may be a criminal, but he is also a person who laughs or worries about things."
In November, the Hiroshima District Court rejected the man's request for a provisional injunction to suspend the publication, acknowledging he had agreed to have his name revealed.
The court ruled that although using his name adds to the "sense of sensationalism," the case in fact drew strong interest and the book "was published in the interest of the public."
Experts on the Juvenile Law, however, have slammed the book, saying publicizing the man's name spoils his chances for rehabilitation and returning to society, the underlying philosophical basis for the law.
Masuda disagrees. She said the man was tried as an adult as the courts wavered between sentencing him to life or the gallows.
"It is about life or death — the trial itself has exceeded the framework of the Juvenile Law," Masuda said. "I wanted the people to see that he is human and not the monster image that was created."
The Hikari slayings became notorious because the accused was a minor at the time.
Motomura's widower, Hiroshi, has been outspoken in his pursuit of having the defendant sentenced to death and has championed the rights of victims' families, even cofounding a support group.
The media, which covered the case extensively, labeled the defendant "the devil."
His lawyers argued in court that he said he raped the woman after strangling her as a "ritual of resurrection" and that he stuffed the baby's body in the closet because he thought the cartoon robotic cat Doraemon "would do something about it."
He was described by the media as a "cunningly intelligent criminal" who knew the Juvenile Law thoroughly, Masuda said, but she later found him very different from the way he had been portrayed.
Masuda met with the defendant 25 times between August 2008 and last August and also talked with his family, friends and other acquaintances.
She said there was a side of him that was "searching for true atonement," but at the same time his immaturity made it difficult for him to form relationships.
In the book, she notes that when he was growing up, his father beat him and his mother on a daily basis.
"I think my dad had his reasons — there were times when (the beating) was my fault, and other times when it wasn't," the defendant was quoted as saying.
"The most bitter thing about my father at that time was that he beat my mother."
The mother he had tried to protect committed suicide in 1993, when he was in his first year of junior high school.
"I don't know why she drove herself into a corner like that," he was quoted as saying. "She could have gotten divorced or run away. But my mother had nowhere to run."
In 2000, the Yamaguchi District Court sentenced the defendant to a life prison term. The Hiroshima High Court upheld this sentence.
Dissatisfied, the Supreme Court in 2006 returned the case to the high court.
As the trial resumed, the defendant's image became more distorted, triggering outrage against not only him but also his defense team, which is led by Yoshihiro Yasuda, a known advocate for abolishing capital punishment.
Eventually, the lawyers also became the target of verbal abuse, being called "devils" and "lunatics."
On handing down the death sentence in April 2008, presiding Judge Yasuhide Narazaki of the Hiroshima High Court denounced the crime as "coldblooded, cruel and inhumane."
"By presenting false statements to reduce his criminal liability, all the while uttering words of apology and remorse, is an insult to the (victims') family, and his attitude is far from repentant," Narazaki ruled.
"Even with highest consideration over the defendant's circumstances, there is no other penalty besides the death sentence."
Masuda said she thinks there is very little chance his sentence will be overturned.
But she is hoping that by publishing the book and showing readers what the defendant is really like, maybe the public will see him in a different light.
"I am asking the readers to decide for themselves whether the death penalty is the answer after seeing a side of him that is completely different from what has been portrayed by the media," Masuda said.
"I don't want him to die. I want him to live and atone for his crimes."
The Japan Times: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
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Convicted killer asks for injunction of book that reveals his identity
The defense council for a 28-year-old man who is appealing his death sentence over the 1999 murder of a mother and her baby daughter in Yamaguchi Prefecture has filed for a provisional injunction of a book that names him even though he was a minor at the time of the murders, the lawyers said Tuesday.
In filing with the Hiroshima District Court Monday, the council sought to stop the publication of a book whose title includes the defendant’s name. It was written by Michiko Masuda, a 28-year-old university official, who interviewed the defendant and his former classmates for the report.
Masuda has claimed that identifying the defendant is crucial in enabling readers to realize his existence and that she obtained his approval to make his name public.
One of the lawyers spoke against it, saying it is the defendant’s will to have the publication suspended and he did not agree to have his name published.
The incident has spread confusion among bookstores that were scheduled to obtain the controversial book.
‘‘I hear that the book hasn’t even gotten to the wholesale bookseller,’’ said a public relations official at a major bookstore in Tokyo. ‘‘We cannot reach the publisher either, so we cannot decide whether we can put the books out for sale.’’
The defendant has appealed the death sentence he was given at the Hiroshima High Court last year for killing Yayoi Motomura, 23, and her 11-month-old daughter in Hikari, Yamaguchi, on April 14, 1999, when he was 18.
As Japanese law prohibits media from reporting the names of juvenile delinquents, the media has kept the defendant anonymous even after he became an adult.
Twice Sentenced to Life Imprisonment:
Minor given death penalty
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) In a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court, the Hiroshima High Court sentenced a man to death Tuesday for killing and raping a 23-year-old woman and killing her 11-month-old daughter when he was a minor in 1999.
News photo News photo
Life then death: A man sits before a judge Tuesday at the Hiroshima High Court, which sentenced him to death for the murder and rape of Yayoi Motomura and the murder of her baby daughter. Above, Motomura's husband, Hiroshi, speaks at a news conference after the ruling. KYODO
In scrapping a lower court's life sentence, presiding Judge Yasuhide Narazaki said such factors as the man's age at the time of the killings and that the killings were not premeditated "do not constitute reasons to avoid capital punishment." The crimes were "cruel, brutal and inhumane," he said.
The defense counsel for the man, who is now 27 and whose identity is being withheld because he was 18 at the time of the crimes, immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.
He had been sentenced to life in prison by the Yamaguchi District Court in 2000.
That decision was backed by the high court in 2002, but the Supreme Court quashed the high court's ruling and ordered a retrial in 2006 after taking issue with the reasoning of the judges in the lower court, who had ruled a life term was appropriate because the killings weren't premeditated and the perpetrator was a minor.
The top court said those reasons were not sufficient to withhold capital punishment and referred the case back to the high court.
Capital punishment is the only option unless there are "special circumstances" that require consideration for leniency, Judge Narazaki said.
The focus of the high-profile retrial was whether the court would impose capital punishment on the man, who was 18 years and 1 month old at the time he strangled and raped Yayoi Motomura and killed her daughter, Yuka, in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The Juvenile Law requires anyone below 18 to be given life imprisonment for crimes that warrant death.
The defendant, who admitted to the murders at his district and high court trials, denied during the retrial that he intended to kill the victims. He was backed by a team of around 20 veteran lawyers.
In his defense, the man's lawyers said during the retrial that he "lost track of himself as he feverishly pushed the victim down without noticing that he was strangling her." They also said he used a rope to "loosely" strangle the baby to stop her from crying.
In the previous rulings, the courts had determined that the man at first tried to rape Motomura but ended up strangling her because she fought back.
In Tuesday's high court ruling, Narazaki recognized that the man intended to kill Motomura.
"It is unnatural and unreasonable to be silent for 6 1/2 years after the indictment if it contradicts the facts," Narazaki said.
He said the man visited the apartment with the intention of raping someone and also intended to kill Motomura's daughter.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty. "The defendant is trying to dodge the death penalty by fabricating and distorting facts of the incident and even disgracing the victims," they said.
Yayoi Motomura's husband, Hiroshi, 32, has made numerous appearances on TV to publicly call for the death sentence.
"Although it took nine years, the ruling that the family sought has been handed down," he told a news conference following the ruling.
According to Supreme Court records, 14 people have been given death sentences since 1966 for crimes committed when they were below the age of 20. Death sentences have been finalized in nine of the 14 cases.
"It's his responsibility to let society know about the consequences of killing someone," Motomura said before the ruling.
Death sentence for man who killed at 18
As many as 3,886 people showed up for only 26 seats allotted to the public for the Hiroshima High Court's ruling Tuesday on a high-profile murder case in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999.(TADASHI MIZOWAKI/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
HIROSHIMA--After criticizing defense lawyers, the high court here Tuesday sentenced a 27-year-old man to death for raping and murdering a woman and strangling her daughter in 1999 when he was a minor.
photoAs many as 3,886 people showed up for only 26 seats allotted to the public for the Hiroshima High Court's ruling Tuesday on a high-profile murder case in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999.(TADASHI MIZOWAKI/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)
photoHiroshi Motomura says the ruling was "perfect."(SHOMA FUJIWAKI/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)
In the high-profile case featuring reversed testimony, controversial defense tactics and questions about applying capital punishment for acts committed as minors, Presiding Judge Yasuhide Narazaki of the Hiroshima High Court condemned the crime as "cold-blooded, cruel and inhumane."
He also blasted the man's defense.
"By presenting false excuses, the defendant has abandoned any effort to face up to his crime, and his attitude, which is an insult toward the bereaved family, is far from reflecting any remorse," Narazaki said.
"There is no particular circumstance that would warrant taking into consideration a penalty other than the death sentence."
The man was 18 years old when he entered the home of Yayoi Motomura, then 23, in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999. He raped and killed Motomura and then strangled her 11-month-old daughter with a piece of rope, according to the ruling.
The suspect initially admitted to all of the charges against him and was sentenced to life in prison by two courts, including the Hiroshima High Court.
However, prosecutors, seeking the death sentence, appealed to the Supreme Court in 2002.
The top court in June 2006 said the life sentence was too lenient and ordered the Hiroshima High Court to re-examine the case.
Before handing down the death sentence, Judge Narazaki focused on the decision by the man's defense to backtrack on his initial admission of murder.
The man's new defense team, headed by Yoshihiro Yasuda, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, was set up in March 2006 over concerns the top court might decide in favor of the prosecutors.
During hearings at the high court, the defense team took a different approach, saying the man should have been charged with injury resulting in death and that he was not in control of his actions.
Narazaki said it was "most unnatural" for the man to reverse his testimony after never once denying the charges during his 296 meetings with his original defense team.
The judge also doubted the defense team's claims that Motomura died accidentally when the man used his right hand to grip her throat in a backhand chokehold. The defense had argued that the man's initial testimony, that he used both hands to strangle Motomura, conflicted with the autopsy report.
In addition, Narazaki threw out the argument that the man did not consider his attack against Motomura as a rape, but as a way to "return to his mother's womb."
The defense team said that after the defendant's mother committed suicide, he was deprived of the opportunity to develop mature relationships with others. It said he attacked Motomura out of a sense of loneliness and viewed the victim as his mother.
Narazaki acknowledged that abuse of the man from his father and his mother's suicide "may have had some effect on his mental development." But he ruled that those circumstances "could not be considered sufficient reason to avert the death penalty."
Hiroshi Motomura, 32, the husband and father of the victims, told a news conference he thought the ruling was "perfect because it answered all of the questions that arose in court."
"I hope that (the accused) will accept the punishment with dignity," he added.
The convicted murderer's lawyers, however, appealed the high court's ruling to the Supreme Court.
Tuesday's ruling was seen as a major turning point in courts' handling of the death sentence in juvenile crime cases. It also comes before citizen judges will participate in deciding a verdict and sentence for serious cases, such as murder, next year.
Under the Juvenile Law, the death penalty cannot be applied for offenders under the age of 18.
Courts have handed down death sentences for crimes committed at age 18 or 19 in only three instances since 1983, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the death penalty for a man accused of shooting four to death when he was 19.
Masao Maruyama, a professor specializing in juvenile law at the Nanzan School of Law in Nagoya, said Tuesday's ruling would likely make it easier for courts to hand down death sentences against those accused of crimes committed as minors.(IHT/Asahi: April 23,2008)
Death rap for double killer / Execution order given for murders, rape committed as minor
The Yomiuri Shimbun
HIROSHIMA--Reversing a lower court's life-in-jail sentence given to a 27-year-old man charged with killing and raping a woman and strangling her baby daughter in Yamaguchi Prefecture, the Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday handed down a death sentence in the trial of the case sent back from the Supreme Court.
The sentencing came after an order by the top court, which in June 2006 told the high court to review its March 2002 decision to sentence the man, a former company employee, to life imprisonment. In Tuesday's ruling, the high court stated there was no valid reason to refuse the prosecutors' demand he be sentenced to death for the murders and the rape, which he had committed in 1999, when he was a minor.
The man was charged with strangling 23-year-old Yayoi Motomura before raping her, and also strangling her 11-month-old daughter, Yuka, at their house in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on April 14, 1999.
His name is being withheld because he was 18 at the time of the crime.
In Tuesday's ruling, presiding Judge Yasuhide Narazaki overturned the Yamaguchi District Court's previous ruling of life imprisonment and sentenced the man to death, saying he could find no reason not to do so.
In the trial, the man denied intending to commit the murders or the rape, a stark reversal from earlier hearings in the lower and high courts, when he did not refute the allegations of his indictment.
The judge described the sudden denial as unnatural and irrational, adding, "His having made such statements did not lead me to find grounds for clemency."
The defense counsel immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.
During the trial, defense lawyers said the man had not intended to strangle Motomura, but "inadvertently killed her as she rebuffed him when he held her," which he was doing "out of a desire to behave as if he were her baby, because Motomura reminded him of his own mother, who had committed suicide."
The defense insisted he raped her "hoping it would bring her back to life."
Intent to kill the baby also was denied by the defense.
The judge assessed the credibility of the statements as highly dubious, noting the man began changing his depositions more than 6-1/2 years after being indicted.
The defense's claim Motomura's death was accidental was rejected by the judge, who said the physical condition of her body contradicted such a suggestion.
The man committed the rape with malicious intent, the judge ruled, saying: "It's rational to assume he raped her to satisfy his sexual appetite. It's extremely incredible that he would think she would come back to life [by being raped], and I can never give credence to such an idea."
The judge described the crime as the extremely grave result of the man's simplistic and self-centered way of thinking.
In evaluating the grounds for withholding the death sentence, the judge said the foremost consideration was how the man had reflected on his actions. The man's demeanor during the trial showed he "seemed to have neglected to face the seriousness of the crime he committed while trying hard to avoid the death penalty," the judge said.
"The apology he gave to the victims' relatives was superficial, and his antisocial nature has been emphasized," the judge said, also adding that "even taking into consideration that he had just turned 18 years old at the time of the crime, he can't avoid the death penalty."
The death sentence was the third given since the end of World War II in a case returned to a high court by the Supreme Court. The more renowned of the other two is the 1987 sentence given to Norio Nagayama, who has been since executed, for fatally shooting four people.
It is the first time since 2005 the death penalty has been handed down to a person who was aged 18 at the time of the crime in question.
Michio Kitamura, deputy head of the Hiroshima High Public Prosecutors Office, said in a statement the ruling was appropriate, given the Supreme Court's decision to return the case to the high court.
(Apr. 23, 2008)
Juvenile offender sentenced to death for murdering woman, daughter
Hiroshi Motomura, whose wife and daughter were murdered by the then 18-year-old defendant, arrives at the Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday morning.
Hiroshi Motomura, whose wife and daughter were murdered by the then 18-year-old defendant, arrives at the Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday morning.
HIROSHIMA -- A man was sentenced to death on Tuesday for murdering a woman and her daughter at their home in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1999 when he was 18 years old.
The Hiroshima High Court convicted the defendant, who is now 27 years old, of murder and rape resulting in death after concluding that there was no room for leniency.
"It was a selfish, self-centered and mean crime that ignored the personality of the victims, the ruling said.
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Yasuhide Narazaki said the defendant's intention of rape and the calculation involved in the crime could not be denied.
Lawyers for the defendant appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court later on Tuesday.
The defendant visited the apartment of Hiroshi Motomura, 32, in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on April 14, 1999, posing as a drainage pipe repair worker, and attempted to rape Motomura's then 23-year-old wife, Yayoi, according to the ruling.
After she resisted, the defendant strangled her, hurled the couple's 11-month-old crying daughter Yuka onto the floor and strangled her as well with a piece of rope, the court found. The man's name has been withheld because he was a minor at the time of the crime.
An initial ruling in the high court had sentenced the man to life imprisonment, but the Supreme Court scrapped that ruling. The top court declared that there were no sufficient grounds for avoiding the death penalty for the defendant, and ordered the high court to retry the case.
When questioned over the killing of Motomura's wife in the second trial at the high court, the defendant said, "I hugged her, wanting to get close to her, and as I held her down while she resisted, she stopped moving." He added that he then cuddled the couple's baby daughter because she wouldn't stop crying, but dropped her. He said he had "no awareness" of strangling the 11-month-old.
During the second high court trial, the defendant changed his statements from those made in the initial hearings. He said that his confession report had been forced on him by police and public prosecutors, and that during the initial district and high court hearings, his lawyers thought life imprisonment was appropriate and didn't argue properly on his behalf.
However, in its latest decision the high court rejected the defendant's claims. It said the defendant's statement that he didn't remember touching Yayoi Motomura, holding her neck down with his right hand, was unnatural. The court added that it could not believe the defendant's statements about the killing of the 11-month-old girl.
Commenting on the defendant's statements that he raped Yayoi Motomura in an attempt to revive her, the court said, "That is a preposterous idea, and it is doubtful that he could think of such a thing in front of a corpse."
At the time of the crime, the defendant was aged 18 years and 30 days. The Juvenile Law bans handing the death penalty to defendants under the age of 18.
Click here for the original Japanese story
(Mainichi Japan) April 22, 2008
Prosecutors again demand death penalty for juvenile who killed young mom, baby
An artist's impression of the trial. (Mainichi file)
HIROSHIMA -- Prosecutors again demanded the death penalty for a juvenile who was convicted of strangling a mother and her baby daughter in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1999, during their closing argument at the Hiroshima High Court on Thursday.
The highly publicized case was sent back to the high court after the Supreme Court dismissed in June last year a lower court ruling that handed the now 26-year-old man life imprisonment, saying the decision was too lenient.
The defendant, whose name is being withheld under the Juvenile Law because he was 18 when he committed the crime, maintained during the latest trial that he hovered over the victim, Yayoi Motomura, because she reminded him of his late mother and that he had sex with her after her death "in order to bring her back alive."
However, prosecutors argued that his explanation was too abrupt and a weak distortion, saying, "It is clear that the defendant changed his confession repeatedly in accordance with the results of forensic and psychiatric evaluations," prosecutors said.
"The pretext offered by the defendant is only an excuse, and there is no reason to spare him capital punishment," said prosecutors.
The defendant was convicted of murder and rape resulting in death for strangling 23-year-old Motomura, and her 11-month-old daughter Yuka, at their home in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on April 14, 1999.
During the latest appeal, the defendant denied his intention to kill Motomura, maintaining that he found himself choking her after he tried to put her down because she resisted. Prosecutors, however, claimed that it was clear that he intended to kill her because he kept pressing her neck with his bare hands for more than five minutes.
（Mainichi Japan） October 18, 2007
Man accused of killing mom and baby tells court he didn't intend to murder infant
June 27, 2007
HIROSHIMA -- A man charged with murder and rape resulting in death after killing a mother and her 11-month-old baby in 1999 has told a high court that he was unaware he strangled the baby during the attack, and denied that he acted with murderous intent.
The 26-year-old defendant, who cannot be named because he was a minor at the time of the killings, made the statement on the second day of proceedings at the court. The case is being heard at the Hiroshima High Court following a decision by the Supreme Court to scrap an earlier life imprisonment sentence and send the case back for renewed deliberation.
According to earlier district and high court rulings, the defendant entered the home of 31-year-old Yamaguchi Prefecture resident Hiroshi Motomura on April 14, 1999, by posing as a plumbing inspector. Once he was inside the home, he attacked Motomura's wife Yayoi, then aged 23, with intent to rape her, and when she resisted him he strangled her, the rulings said. He was also convicted of picking up Motomura's 11-month-old daughter Yuka, who was crying, and then throwing her on the floor and strangling her.
In the first hearing after the Supreme Court sent the case back to the high court, lawyers for the man said "The baby didn't stop crying, so the defendant wrapped a rope around her neck and tied it in a bow, and she died."
In questioning on Wednesday, the accused said, "At the time of the incident, I was in such a state that I didn't even realize I had wrapped a rope around the baby's neck and tied it in a bow. I first learned that the rope was tied in a bow when I was shown the rope during questioning."
"I held the baby in my arms thinking I would soothe her," he added. "I wasn't cradling her to kill her, but fell into despair when I ended up killing her," he said.
On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, the defendant is set to face questioning from academics who conducted a psychiatric evaluation of him. (Mainichi)
Death sought once again in '99 slaying of mother, child
The Japan Times: Friday, May 25, 2007
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Prosecutors again sought the death penalty Thursday at the Hiroshima High Court for a man charged with killing a woman and her baby in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1999, when he was a minor.
The demand follows a Supreme Court order to the high court to review its previous ruling, which sentenced the man to life imprisonment.
In a decision in June 2006, the top court sent the case back to the high court for retrial, saying there was no sufficient reason for the court not to have given him the death penalty. It also said that capital punishment is the only option unless there are any special circumstances to be taken into consideration for leniency.
In March 2002, the high court upheld the life sentence handed to the defendant in March 2000 by the Yamaguchi District Court. The court ruled that the man, now 26, strangled 23-year-old Yayoi Motomura with his hands and raped her, and also strangled her 11-month-old daughter Yuka with a rope after knocking her to the floor in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
At Thursday's hearing, the lawyers for the defendant, whose name is being withheld because he was an 18-year-old minor at the time he committed the crime, said the death penalty should be avoided because he did not intend to kill them and he should be charged with inflicting injuries resulting in death instead of with murder.
The defense also said the incident was a reflection of "the extreme mental immaturity of the defendant," arguing that he had inadvertently strangled Yayoi as she tried to fight back.