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.

Original/原稿:
光母子殺害事件、元少年の死刑確定へ…上告棄却

 山口県光市で1999年に母子2人が殺害された事件で、殺人や強姦(ごうかん)致死などの罪に問われ、差し戻し後の控訴審で死刑となった犯行時18歳の被告について、最高裁第1小法廷(金築(かねつき)誠志裁判長)は20日、被告の上告を棄却する判決を言い渡した。

 判決理由では「何ら落ち度のない母子を殺害した冷酷、残虐な犯行で、被告に真摯(しんし)な反省もうかがえない。犯行時少年だったことを考慮しても、死刑はやむを得ない」とした。

 死刑が確定するのは、元会社員大月(旧姓・福田)孝行被告(30)。犯行時18歳と30日だった被告の死刑確定は、最高裁に記録が残る66年以降で最も若く、凶悪事件に対する厳罰化の傾向が一層鮮明になった。

 判決は、裁判官4人中3人の多数意見。死刑を適用する理由として、母親殺害の発覚を免れるため子供も殺した悪質さに加え、遺族の被害感情がしゅん烈であることや、事件が社会に大きな衝撃を与えた点などを挙げた。被告側は差し戻し審で、殺意と強姦目的を否定する新たな主張をしたが、判決は「不合理な弁解」と非難し、反省していないことの表れだとした。

 一方、犯行時少年だったことや前科がないことを酌量できる事情として挙げたが、「それらを十分考慮しても死刑判決を是認せざるを得ない」と結論づけた。

 宮川光治裁判官は、18歳未満の被告に死刑は科せないと定めた少年法の規定に言及し、「被告の精神的成熟度が18歳未満だった可能性がある」として、審理を差し戻すべきだとする反対意見を述べた。死刑事件で反対意見がつくのは異例。

 差し戻し前の1審・山口地裁と2審・広島高裁は、犯行時少年だったことを重視して死刑を回避。最高裁は2006年6月、「少年だったことは死刑回避の決定的事情とは言えない」として差し戻し、08年4月に同高裁が「被告は虚偽の弁解を弄し、酌量すべき事情を見いだすすべもなくなった」として死刑を選択する異例の経緯をたどった。

 連続射殺事件の永山則夫・元死刑囚(犯行時19歳)の判決確定(90年)以降、死刑が確定した少年事件2件では、いずれも殺害された被害者が4人だった。

 ◆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。

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 読売新聞は、犯罪を犯した未成年者について、少年の健全育成を目的とした少年法の理念を尊重し、原則、匿名で報道しています。しかし死刑が確定すれば、更生(社会復帰)の機会はなくなる一方、国家が人の命を奪う死刑の対象が誰なのかは重大な社会的関心事となります。このため20日の判決から、光市母子殺害事件の被告を実名で報道します。

(2012年2月21日03時01分 読売新聞)

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