Japan

Prosecutors push for the death penalty only in the case of multiple murders, or single murder with aggravating circumstances.] Judges usually impose death penalty in case of multiple homicides. Between 1946 and 2003 766 people were sentenced to death, 608 of whom were executed. For 40 months from 1989 to 1993 successive ministers of justice refused to authorise executions, which amounted to an informal moratorium. (See Capital punishment in Japan)

Japan executes two murderers, including teen killer on death-row since 1992

December 19, 2017

Japan Tuesday executed two convicted murderers, including one who committed his crime while in his teens, the justice ministry said, ignoring calls from international rights groups to end capital punishment.

The hangings of Teruhiko Seki and Kiyoshi Matsui bring to 21 the total number of executions since conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in late 2012.

Seki, 44, was convicted of killing four people in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo, in 1992 when he was 19, the ministry said.

It was the first execution of a death-row prisoner who committed crimes as a minor since 1997 in Japan, local media said.

People are considered adults at the age of 20 in Japan.

Matsui, 69, was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend and her parents in 1994.

Both were seeking a retrial, local media said. Though not unprecedented, it is rare in Japan to put to death those appealing for a fresh trial.

“They were extremely cruel cases,” Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said.

“I ordered the executions after very careful consideration,” she said.

Japan and the United States are the only major developed countries that still carry out capital punishment.

The death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

Opponents say Japan’s system is cruel because inmates can be on death row for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending execution a few hours ahead of time.

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Japan: Death-row inmate hanged for 2007 murder

June 26, 2015

TOKYO — A man convicted of murdering a woman in 2007 in Nagoya was executed on Thursday morning, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said.
It was the first execution that Kamikawa has signed off on since becoming justice minister and the 12th since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012.
Tsukasa Kanda, 44, was convicted along with accomplices Yoshimoto Hori and Yuichiro Hondo of killing 31-year-old Rie Isogai on Aug 24, 2007, in Aichi Prefecture.
The men, who met on a website set up to bring “crime-minded” people together, were convicted of abducting Isogai with the intention of robbing her. They then killed her to prevent her from testifying against them.
Kanda and Hori were sentenced to death. Kawagishi received a life prison term in return for having turned himself in and providing evidence that aided the police investigation. Hori’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison, following an appeal.
The case took an unusual turn when Isogai’s mother drew up a petition for the death penalty for Hori, that was signed by 100,000 citizens within 10 days. She presented the petition with some 150,000 names to the District Public Prosecutor’s Office of Nagoya. The number increased to 318,000 by December 2008. However, the Supreme Court rejected the request.
Source: Japan Today, June 25, 2015

 

TOKYO – Man freed from death row after 48 years will require 6 months in hospital, says sister

march 30, 2014

TOKYO —A man believed to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate, who walked free from jail on Thursday after decades in solitary confinement, will require hospital treatment for about six months, his sister said Saturday.

An unsteady-looking Iwao Hakamada, 78, emerged from the Tokyo prison with his campaigning sister after Shizuoka District Court ordered a fresh trial over the grisly 1966 murder of his boss and the man’s family.

On Friday, he underwent a medical check-up, but his sister Hideko, 81, said the years of confinement had left her brother mentally and physically unstable, TBS reported. She said he was having trouble making conversation and simple decisions.

After his arrest, Hakamada initially denied accusations that he robbed and killed his boss, the man’s wife and their two children before setting their house ablaze.

But the former boxer, who worked for a bean-paste maker, later confessed following what he subsequently claimed was a brutal police interrogation that included beatings.

He retracted his confession, but to no avail, and the supreme court confirmed his death sentence in 1980.

Prosecutors and courts had used blood-stained clothes, which only emerged a year after the crime and his arrest, as key evidence to convict Hakamada.

The clothes did not fit him, his supporters said. The blood stains appeared too vivid for evidence that was discovered so long after the crime. Later DNA tests found no link between Hakamada, the clothes and the blood stains, his supporters said.

But Hakamada remained in solitary confinement on death row, regardless.

Japan Today/AFP

Japan: Top court upholds death penalty for man over Osaka fatal arson

march 7, 2014

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld lower court rulings that sentenced a man to death for killing 16 people by setting fire to a video-viewing parlor in Osaka in 2008 in a failed suicide attempt.

The highest court’s 5-justice first petty bench led by Justice Tomoyuki Yokota turned down an appeal filed by Kazuhiro Ogawa, 52, against decisions by the Osaka district court in 2009 and high court in 2011.

Ogawa had pleaded not guilty, and denied setting fire to the parlor.

Justice Yokota said the accused “committed an extremely selfish crime” and the death penalty is unavoidable as Ogawa “has not sincerely reflected on” his conduct. The arson “caused major shock and anxiety to society,” Yokota added.

According to the lower court rulings, Ogawa set fire to a room at a video-viewing parlor in Osaka’s Naniwa Ward at around 3 a.m. on Oct. 1, 2008, in a bid to commit suicide.

The fire destroyed the store completely, killed 16 customers and injured 4 others.

(source: Mainichi News)

Hakamada Iwao and the Declining Support for Japan’s Death Penalty

february 23 2014

Since conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012, eight Japanese prisoners have been executed. A 2009 government poll, often cited when the issue of capital punishment is raised in Japan, claims that 86 percent of the Japanese public was in favor of the practice. However, more recent research from Oxford University reveals diminished enthusiasm for the death penalty among questions over its place in modern society.

Japan – a country that prefers hangings to the “more humane” method of lethal injection – has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups across the globe for its practice of so-called “secret” executions.

“Prisoners, who spend years, even decades, on death row, typically are not told of their execution until hours before they are led to the gallows,” reported The Guardian. “Their lawyers and relatives are informed only after the execution has been carried out.”

Mitsuo Fujishima and Ryoji Kagayama – convicted of two murders each – were both hung in December without prior notice. One hundred and twenty nine inmates await execution in Japan, including a man who has been on death row for more than 45 years.

The story of Iwao Hakamada provides a rallying cry for anti-death penalty advocates. Hakamada, 77, is the world’s longest serving death row inmate. Once a professional boxer, he was sentenced to death for murdering a family of four in 1968. More than half of his live has been lived behind bars, including 30 years in a solitary confinement cell.

“There has long been speculation Hakamada was innocent, and in 2007 one of the three judges who originally convicted him publicly declared he had thought Hakamada was innocent,” wrote Daily Mail. “Amnesty International claims new DNA tests undertaken in 2012 point to Hakamada’s innocence.”

Hakamada’s 80-year-old sister, who has spent decades campaigning for her brother’s release, said that a lifetime in jail has caused him to lose touch with reality.

“If you put someone in jail for [that long], it’s too much to expect them to stay sane,” she said.

A survey of 20,000 Japanese citizens carried out by Mai Sato, a criminology researcher at Oxford University, points to changing attitudes about the death penalty. She separated respondents into groups of individuals who were either for, against or undecided on the subject.

Each group was then split down the middle – one half was given a “detailed explanation of the execution process and the potential for miscarriages of justice” while the other half wasn’t.

Of the informed group, only 36 percent supported the continued use of capital punishment. In the uninformed group, 46 percent were for the death penalty – nearly half of the government’s reported figures.

“I think my survey can show that even if the government abolishes the death penalty tomorrow, the people will be able to accept that,” Sato told AFP. “If they want to kill a prisoner based on a public opinion survey, then that survey really needs to be sound.”

Amnesty International praised Sato’s findings and pointed to a lack of information about capital punishment being available to the Japanese public.

“In Japan, facts about the death penalty are kept secret,” said Louise Vicher, the coordinator of the Asia Pacific Anti-Death Penalty Project at Amnesty International. “Support is known to decline when injustices or unfairness in death penalty cases hit the media, like the case of Hakamada … [It] makes people feel uncomfortable.”

Last Saturday, a Tokyo movie theater opened “Death Penalty Movie Week” to spread awareness about the divisive issue. Eurospace Shibuya will show eight films from around the world that use capital punishment as a central theme. It is the theater’s third time hosting the event.

Masakuni Ota, one of the event’s organizers, said that the event seeks to “provide people with information on capital punishment through movies at a time when many of them support the death penalty without knowing its true nature.”

Hakamada Iwao and the Declining Support for Japan’s Death Penalty

february 21, 2014

Since conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012, eight Japanese prisoners have been executed. A 2009 government poll, often cited when the issue of capital punishment is raised in Japan, claims that 86 percent of the Japanese public was in favor of the practice. However, more recent research from Oxford University reveals diminished enthusiasm for the death penalty among questions over its place in modern society.

Japan – a country that prefers hangings to the “more humane” method of lethal injection – has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups across the globe for its practice of so-called “secret” executions.

“Prisoners, who spend years, even decades, on death row, typically are not told of their execution until hours before they are led to the gallows,” reported The Guardian. “Their lawyers and relatives are informed only after the execution has been carried out.”

Mitsuo Fujishima and Ryoji Kagayama – convicted of two murders each – were both hung in December without prior notice. One hundred and twenty nine inmates await execution in Japan, including a man who has been on death row for more than 45 years.

The story of Iwao Hakamada provides a rallying cry for anti-death penalty advocates. Hakamada, 77, is the world’s longest serving death row inmate. Once a professional boxer, he was sentenced to death for murdering a family of four in 1968. More than half of his live has been lived behind bars, including 30 years in a solitary confinement cell.

“There has long been speculation Hakamada was innocent, and in 2007 one of the three judges who originally convicted him publicly declared he had thought Hakamada was innocent,” wrote Daily Mail. “Amnesty International claims new DNA tests undertaken in 2012 point to Hakamada’s innocence.”

Hakamada’s 80-year-old sister, who has spent decades campaigning for her brother’s release, said that a lifetime in jail has caused him to lose touch with reality.

“If you put someone in jail for [that long], it’s too much to expect them to stay sane,” she said.

A survey of 20,000 Japanese citizens carried out by Mai Sato, a criminology researcher at Oxford University, points to changing attitudes about the death penalty. She separated respondents into groups of individuals who were either for, against or undecided on the subject.

Each group was then split down the middle – one half was given a “detailed explanation of the execution process and the potential for miscarriages of justice” while the other half wasn’t.

Of the informed group, only 36 percent supported the continued use of capital punishment. In the uninformed group, 46 percent were for the death penalty – nearly half of the government’s reported figures.

“I think my survey can show that even if the government abolishes the death penalty tomorrow, the people will be able to accept that,” Sato told AFP. “If they want to kill a prisoner based on a public opinion survey, then that survey really needs to be sound.”

Amnesty International praised Sato’s findings and pointed to a lack of information about capital punishment being available to the Japanese public.

“In Japan, facts about the death penalty are kept secret,” said Louise Vicher, the coordinator of the Asia Pacific Anti-Death Penalty Project at Amnesty International. “Support is known to decline when injustices or unfairness in death penalty cases hit the media, like the case of Hakamada … [It] makes people feel uncomfortable.”

Last Saturday, a Tokyo movie theater opened “Death Penalty Movie Week” to spread awareness about the divisive issue. Eurospace Shibuya will show eight films from around the world that use capital punishment as a central theme. It is the theater’s third time hosting the event.

Masakuni Ota, one of the event’s organizers, said that the event seeks to “provide people with information on capital punishment through movies at a time when many of them support the death penalty without knowing its true nature.”

Japan: Public backing of death penalty questioned

february 7, 2014

Japan’s opinion polls skewed, exaggerate support: Oxford expert

LONDON – When defending Japan’s use of the death penalty, the government always cites overwhelming public support for the policy, and the last survey in 2009 showed 86 percent backed the status quo.

But a major new study by an academic in Britain shows “serious flaws” in Tokyo’s assertion that the death penalty is universally popular and should therefore be maintained.

Mai Sato, from Oxford University’s Centre for Criminology, shows that views are much less entrenched than previously thought, particularly after people have been exposed to more information on the subject.

She recently presented her findings to the British Parliament’s group on the abolition of the death penalty, which, along with the Foreign Office, hopes the study will help contribute to a change of stance in Japan, one of the few developed democracies that still retain the practice.

One of Sato’s main contentions is that questions used in government public opinion surveys are phrased in a way that results in an exaggerated level of support for the death penalty.

Sato decided to conduct her own survey of around 20,000 people in Japan and gave respondents five options regarding the death penalty: should definitely be kept (44 percent), should probably be kept (36 percent), cannot say (16 percent), should probably be abolished (3 percent) and should definitely be abolished (1 percent).

She argues the results show that rather than being overwhelmingly in favor, just over half of the Japanese public is either “undecided” or “lukewarm” toward the death penalty.

Sato then decided to take 1,000 people from the survey and split them into two groups that each had an equal proportion of those in the pro, anti and undecided camps.

The former would be provided with several facts about the death penalty — such as the execution process and the possibility of miscarriages of justice — while the other group would receive no additional information.

The results said 36 percent supported retaining the death penalty in the first group versus 46 percent in the latter group.

A final study saw a group of people deliberating the issue over a day. Findings showed views often fluctuated on the matter, while participants also become more tolerant of opposing views, said Sato.

In an interview, Sato said that while governments should reflect public opinion, they also have a duty to protect human rights.

Rather than measure support for the death penalty, Sato thinks the government should measure the level of tolerance toward abolition. She believes her research shows a majority of the Japanese public is likely to “accept or tolerate” abolition.

The academic says that unless the government changes the way it measures public opinion, Japan will continue to receive “further international criticism.”

Responding to the study, Louise Vischer, coordinator of the Asia Pacific Anti Death Penalty Project at Amnesty International, said the validity of opinion polls is flawed because of Japan’s lack of disclosure.

“I question how opinion polls can be a fair judge when, in Japan, facts around the death penalty are kept secret.

“The timing of conducting polls is critical. Support is known to decline when injustices or unfairness in death penalty cases hit the media, like the case of Iwao Hakamada, who is suffering from a mental illness after being on death row for 44 years following an unfair trial. This makes people feel uncomfortable,” he said.

Vivien Stern, a member of Britain’s House of Lords who heads the group on the abolition of the death penalty, said she has an ongoing dialog with the Japanese Embassy in London and hopes this unique research will be influential.

She said: “I’m sure someone in the government will hear about this and begin to think about how they rely on public opinion. I hope it may be a little step forward in persuading the Japanese government that there is another way of looking at this issue.” (Source: The Japan Times)