A 19-year-old male accused of killing two women and seriously wounding a man earlier this year in Miyagi Prefecture has been sentenced to death, 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 gave the decision at the Sendai District Court in northeastern Japan yesterday. 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, a former demolition worker who was 18 at the time of the crime, to death, finding him guilty of stabbing to death his former girlfriend's 20-year-old older 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 February 10 in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
The defendant was also found guilty of kidnapping a minor for taking away his former girlfriend, 18, and injuring her in the left leg.
The name of the defendant is being withheld as he is a minor under 20. The defendant told his lawyer later that he plans to accept yesterday's decision.
The defense counsel said it plans to encourage the defendant to file an appeal with a higher court. Judge Suzuki said in the decision that the defendant was young at 18 at the time of the crime but that it does not represent any reason for the court to avoid giving death penalty, mentioning the 1983 Supreme Court precedent that set the criteria to give capital punishment.
In the precedent, the top court said capital punishment can be imposed on a minor after taking into consideration such factors as the quality, motive and brutality of the crime, significance of the result particularly in terms of number of victims, sentiment of the bereaved family, social significance of the crime, age and criminal records of the defendant, and the defendant's conditions after the crime.
The judge also said "it is extremely unlikely" the defendant could be rehabilitated in the future. The focal point of the trial was whether the court would give capital punishment to the defendant because he had pleaded guilty.
Judge Suzuki did not give any instruction to the defendant after reading out the decision.