JAPAN. COURT'S DEATH RULING A KEY VERDICT
April 23, 2008: a ruling handed down by the Hiroshima High Court to a 27 year old man who killed a woman and her baby when he was 18 years old marks a change in precedent regarding the death penalty and opens the way for more capital punishment verdicts.
There are two noteworthy points about the ruling. The first is the number of victims involved. Courts have generally given death sentences to people found to have murdered three or more people. However, if a murderer killed fewer than three people, courts only order capital punishment after taking into account to what degree the crime was premeditated.
The Hiroshima High Court decision delivers the message that courts can and will hand down death sentences even when a murder is not premeditated, as was the case in the Hiroshima trial, unless there are mitigating reasons for the crime.
The second point is the court's conclusion that it need not take into account the fact the murder was carried out by a minor. When the man committed the double murder, he was 18 years and 1 month old.
Convicted criminals in Japan can be executed by hanging if they are 18 or over at the time of the crime, but death penalties for young offenders are rare.
The country deems anyone under the age of 20 years as a minor so the defendant in this case cannot be named because the youth was 18 years and one month old when he committed the murders.
The court decision is believed to have come about as a result of heightened concern about the increasing rate and brutality of crimes committed by minors. (Sources: Daily Yomiuri, Reuters, 23/04/2008)