Japan Supreme Court Gives Death Sentence to Mother-Child Murdurer who was then a Minor, Rejects Appeal

Japan Supreme Court Gives Death Sentence to Mother-Child Murdurer who was then a Minor, Rejects Appeal
Yomiuri Shimbun: 光母子殺害事件、元少年の死刑確定へ…上告棄却
February 21, 2012

On February 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Japan’s First Petty Bench (headed by Seishi Kanetsuki) gave the death penalty to a man who raped and killed a mother and then killed her baby in Hikari City in 1999, when he was 18 years old. The decision was made in an appeals court on retrial (details below), and further appeals by the defendant were rejected.

The court’s reasoning was that “he coldbloodedly killed an innocent mother and child and still hasn’t seriously reflected on his brutality. Even though he was a minor at the time of the crime, this death sentence is unavoidable.”

The man sentenced to death was former company employee Takayuki Ōtuski (formerly Fukuda), age 30. Since he was 18 years, 30 days old at the time of the crime and hence the youngest person sentenced to death in 66 years, this case clearly displays the court’s hardening stance toward heinous crimes.

Three of the four judges on the court agreed with the decision. Some reasons the death penalty was considered appropriate were that the man killed the child so that his murder of the mother would not be discovered, compounding his wrongdoing; the bereaved felt severely victimized by the crime; and the case sent a shock wave through Japanese society. During the retrial, the defendant changed his argument and denied that he planned to commit rape or murder; the high court panned this as an “irrational defense” and took it as a sign that he still had not reflected on his actions.

Though the defendant was a minor at the time of the crime and had no previous criminal record, the court concluded that “taking these facts into full consideration, there is still no other option but the death penalty.”

Judge Kōji Yamaguchi dissented with the majority opinion and argued the case should not have been sent down for a retrial. He cited the Juvenile Law, which states that no one can be sentenced to death for a crime committed while under age 18, and stated that “it’s possible the defendant’s mental age was below 18.” Dissenting opinions are unusual for death penalty cases.

In the original trials about the case before the Yamaguchi Regional Court and the Hiroshima High Court, the justices chose not to give the defendant the death penalty on account of his age. In June 2006, the Supreme Court argued that “his youth cannot be considered a definitive factor in avoiding the death penalty” and sent the case back to the Hiroshima High Court for a retrial; on April 2008, that court stated that “the defendant expressed falsehoods in his argument, and there are now no extenuating circumstances” and ordered the death sentence, reversing its previous decision.

Since the death sentence was given to serial killer Norio Nagayama in 1990 (he was 19 at the time of his crimes and has since been executed), only two minors had been sentenced to death, but each one killed four people.

The Hikari City Mother-Child Murder Case: In April 1999, Ōtuski dressed as a plumbing inspector and went to his company-employed neighbor Hiroshi Motomura’s home, where he assaulted Motomura’s wife, Yayoi Motomura, then age 23. Because Mrs. Motomura resisted Ōtuski, he strangled her to death with both hands. Ōtuski then strangled her daughter Yūka (11 months old) to death with a cord because she wouldn’t stop crying. Finally, he stole a wallet and escaped.

Note: The Yomiuri Shimbun, out of respect to the Juvenile Law, which aims to protect children’s rights to a healthy upbringing, withholds the names of juvenile criminals on principle. Now the death penalty has been confirmed, however, and the question of whose life will be taken away by this punishment and who will not have the chance to return to society is of great concern to the public. For this reason, this newspaper will use the criminal’s real name when reporting on the Hikari City Mother-Child Murder Case from now on.

Hikari City Mother-Child Murder Case Judgment Record
Life Imprisonment: Yamaguchi Regional Court, March 22, 2000
Reasoning: The murder was not premeditated, and the murderer was remarkably immature. There are seeds of remorse inside him, so this court cannot say that there is no chance he’ll turn his life around.
Life Imprisonment: Hiroshima High Court, March 14, 2002
The gravity of the crime cannot be forgotten, but he sometimes expresses repentance, so this court cannot say that there is no chance he’ll turn his life around.
Annulment of Sentence/Reversal: Supreme Court of Japan, June 20, 2006
Because of the seriousness of the crime, and because there is no extenuating factors to take into condition, he must be sentenced to death. The murderer’s youth can’t be considered a decisive factor.
Death Sentence: Hiroshima High Court, April 22, 2008
The falsehood of the defendant’s argument kills the probability that he can turn his life around. No extenuating circumstances can be found that would allow the murderer to avoid a death sentence.
Death Sentence: Supreme Court of Japan, February 20, 2012
Because of his coldblooded crimes which trampled on the mother and child’s dignity, and because he continues to show no sincere remorse for his crime, despite his age he must be sentenced to death.










 ◆光市母子殺害事件 1999年4月、大月被告は排水検査の作業員を装って近所の会社員本村洋さん方を訪れ、妻弥生さん(当時23歳)を乱暴目的で襲って、抵抗されたことから両手で首を絞めて殺害した。泣きやまなかった長女の夕夏ちゃん(同11か月)も、ひもで首を絞めて殺害し、財布を盗んで逃走した。



(2012年2月21日03時01分 読売新聞)

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