Capital punishment in Japan
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Japan. It is applied in practice only for murder, and executions are carried out by hanging. The courts follow guidelines laid down in the trial of Norio Nagayama, a 19-year-old from a severely disadvantaged background.
About Capital punishment in Japan in brief
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Japan. It is applied in practice only for murder, and executions are carried out by hanging. The death penalty is usually reserved for cases of multiple murders, though some single murderers have been executed in extraordinary cases like torture murder or kidnap-for-ransom. In Japan, the courts follow guidelines laid down in the trial of Norio Nagayama, a 19-year-old from a severely disadvantaged background, who committed four separate robbery-murders in 1968 and was finally hanged in 1997. The court ruled that the penalty shall be decided in consideration of the degree of criminal liability and balance of justice based on a nine-point set of criteria. The number of victims killed is the most important criterion for imposition of the death penalty. A death sentence handed down for a single murder is considered \”extraordinary\”. In 2012, a report found that, while prosecutors very rarely demand capital punishment in cases of single murder, it was handed down in 32% of those cases. In May 2009, district courts try capital cases using the lay judge system, where three professional judges sit with six randomly chosen citizens. Five votes of nine-member court, including at least one professional judge, are required for issuing a conviction and any punishment, including death. Japan has a civil law legal system, therefore, appeal courts retry both facts and law. The Supreme Court has the final say on the case, allowing it to remand the case to the bench or change the punishment if the high court is “seriously unfairly imposing a lenient sentence” In only three cases since 1945, the Supreme Court ruled a high court-imposed life sentence, and ordered a retrial for death sentence, was too lenient.
Among them is that of a man convicted of murdering an elderly woman for robbery shortly after being paroled from a similar crime. The third case was that of Takuki Fukuda, both under 20 at the time of the crime, who was convicted of robbing a woman of an elderly man and sentenced to life in prison. The case was decided by a five-member petty court, with only three judges and no lay judges, and can either reduce a death sentence to life sentence or raise a life sentence to death. Ultimately, the court ruled life sentence was unfair and remanded the case for retrial, allowing the court to change the case and the sentence to be reduced to death or to life with a fine of up to $1,000,000 (about $2,500,000 in today’s money) The case of Nori NagayAMA was the third case, and he was sentenced to death in 1997, but the sentence was later quashed after he was released on parole from life prison terms. The sentence was quashed again after the court found that it was an error, and quashed this sentence before sending him back on death row. In the case of Takukuda, the death sentence was imposed shortly after a paroled man was found to be unfair and ordered to be executed.