The death sentences for three men convicted of killing four people in 1994, when the defendants were minors aged under 20, have been finalized after the Supreme Court rejected an objection filed by them against its earlier decision.
The top court’s five-justice first petty bench on Wednesday rejected the objection filed by the three men—Masato Kobayashi, 36, Atsushi Okura, 35, and Masayoshi Haga, 35. The men were aged 18 to 19 years old when they killed the four men over an 11-day period from Sept 28, 1994, in Osaka, Aichi and Gifu prefectures. It was recently discovered that Okura changed his name from Komori.
Justice Ryuko Sakurai, who presided over the case, rejected the defendants’ request to correct the top court’s earlier decision.
It is the first time that death sentences for two or more defendants in juvenile cases have been finalized simultaneously since 1966, when comparable records became available at the highest court.
Japan’s Code of Criminal Procedure allows a defendant to file an objection against a top court decision. But it is limited to technicalities such as an error in the wording.
Of the three, Kobayashi was sentenced to death by both the Nagoya District Court and the Nagoya High Court. The high court sentenced Okura and Haga to death, after the district court had sentenced them to life imprisonment.
On March 10, the Supreme Court rejected appeals by the three against the death sentences, upholding the high court ruling.
Death sentences to stand for 3 men over 1994 murders
(Mainichi Japan) March 10, 2011
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected appeals by three men against death sentences for murdering four people in 1994 in western and central Japan, in crimes that occurred when the defendants were still minors.
The decision upholds the death sentences for the three defendants, who were aged 18 or 19 at the time of the crimes.
They are all currently aged 35 and can still file objections to the top court's decision. But the objections will be limited to technicalities such as errors in wording. The Supreme Court has rarely accepted such objections, judicial sources said.
Justice Ryuko Sakurai, who presided over the trial at the highest court's 1st petty bench, turned down their appeals against the 2005 Nagoya High Court decision that sentenced the three to death.
The three engaged in group bullying and killed four men aged at that time from 19 to 26 over an 11-day period from Sept. 28, 1994, in Osaka, Aichi and Gifu prefectures.
One of the three had earlier been sentenced to death by both the Nagoya District Court and the Nagoya High Court.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for all three, while the defense had called for lighter penalties, saying the defendants could be rehabilitated.
Sakurai said in the decision that the death penalty is inevitable for the defendants even after considering the details of the case, including the fact that they were minors at the time, noting that each of them was actively involved in the crimes. "The results were serious and the impact on Japanese society was significant," she said.
In July 2001, the Nagoya District Court found one of the three had played a key role in the crime and sentenced him to death. It sentenced the two co-defendants to imprisonment for life.
Both prosecutors and the three defendants filed appeals with the Nagoya High Court.
This is the first time that the death penalty for two or more defendants in a juvenile case has become binding at the Supreme Court since 1966, the first year for which the Supreme Court holds records.
In October 2005, the Nagoya High Court overturned the district court decision and held all three defendants equally responsible for murdering the four victims.
The high court found that the defendants took Masahide Hayashi, then 26, to a building in the city of Osaka on Sept. 28, 1994, strangled him, and dumped his body in a mountainous area in Kochi Prefecture.
On Oct. 7, they killed Sawato Okada, 22, a friend of the three, on a riverbed in Aichi Prefecture.
The defendants later confined three men in a car with the intention of stealing money from them. The defendants battered two of the three with steel pipes at a river embankment in Gifu Prefecture. The third man was released in Osaka more than seven hours after the two others had been beaten to death.
Trio who murdered four as minors sent to gallows
(JDPIC Note: The trio were not "sent to the gallows" but simply sentenced to death. The Japan Times apologized for the error)
The Japan Times: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005
NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Nagoya High Court on Friday sentenced three men to death for murdering four people in 1994, crimes that occurred when the defendants were still minors.
This is the first time that more than one defendant in a case involving minors has been sentenced to death in a Japanese court.
The high court rejected a July 2001 ruling by the Nagoya District Court that sentenced one to death and handed life terms to the other two.
The three were 18 to 19 years old when they killed four males -- aged 19 to 26 -- over an 11-day period in Osaka, Aichi and Gifu prefectures.
In appealing the lower court ruling, prosecutors sought the death sentence for all three defendants, who are now 29 to 30 years old, while their defense lawyers sought commutation.
Since the defendants committed the murders before they were 20, their names are being withheld.
The four victims were murdered in three separate cases.
In the first, the defendants strangled Masahide Hayashi, 26, after forcibly taking him to a building in Osaka on Sept. 28, according to the high court ruling.
They dumped his body in a mountainous area of Kochi Prefecture.
In the second case, the defendants beat up Sawato Okada, 22, a supposed friend of the killers, in Aichi Prefecture on Oct. 7 and left him to die.
After killing Okada, the defendants confined three men in a car with the intent of stealing their money.
The defendants battered two of them -- Katsutoshi Watanabe, 20, and Masafumi Ezaki, 19 -- with steel pipes on a river bank in Gifu Prefecture. The third man was released in Osaka more than seven hours after the other two were beaten to death.
The defense team disputed that the defendants had intended to murder the victims and colluded in the murders, but the judge rejected this argument.
The Japan Times: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005
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