[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Feb 25 12:01:28 CST 2012
Gutter oil makers could face death penalty
Producers and sellers of "gutter oil", or illegally recycled cooking oil, could
face the death penalty, China's top court reaffirmed on Thursday.
The reaffirmation is the country's latest effort to crack down on a cause of
public concern over food safety in the world's most populous country.
"Courts should fully consider suspects' subjective intention, the amount of
money involved and the harm that has been done to the public and the market,"
read a circular issued on Thursday by the Supreme People's Court, China's top
court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the top prosecuting body, and the
Ministry of Public Security.
"For those who deserve death, death penalties should be handed down
resolutely," it said.
Gutter oil can contain carcinogens and other toxins that are harmful when
consumed by people. The government launched a massive crackdown last year after
media reports said gutter oil has been rampant in China.
Police have busted 100 gutter oil manufacturers since August and arrested about
800 suspects in 135 cases in the campaign, Xinhua News Agency said.
The notice issued on Thursday also said the court should impose "harsh
punishments" on government officials if they fail to fulfill their duties and
that "causes damage to public health" and "erodes the government's
According to a law amendment enacted in May, criminals convicted of food safety
crimes that cause death will be put behind bars for at least 10 years. Life
sentences and the death penalty could be also handed down.
In the past 2 years, 726 criminals have received jail sentences for producing
and selling tainted food. The most severe punishment was a death sentence with
a 2-year reprieve.
But none of those punished was a government official, said Sun Jungong,
spokesman for the top court.
2 men wre executed in November 2009 for adding melamine, a chemical that can
lead to kidney stones and kidney failure, to dairy products.
Dubbed by the media as the country's most notorious food safety scandal, at
least six babies were killed after consuming the tainted formula.
However, some experts called for a cautious use of death penalty.
Liu Renwen, a legal expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said
despite the severe harm of producing and selling tainted food, the death
penalty should be handed down "with care" for a non-violent crime.
(source: China Daily)
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:
Death penalty may not impact murder rate
Use of the death penalty does not affect subsequent murder rates, says a study
of over 50 years of crime statistics in Trinidad and Tobago. “Our analysis of
homicides and serious crimes in Trinidad and Tobago seriously undermines the
contention that capital punishment offers a solution to Trinidad and Tobago’s
soaring homicide rate,” write the study’s co-authors, David Greenberg,
professor of sociology at New York University and Biko Agozino, professor of
sociology at Virginia Tech.
“Over a span of 50 years, during which these sanctions were being deployed in
degrees that varied substantially, neither imprisonment nor death sentences nor
executions had any significant relationship to homicides.”
A study on the impact of capital punishment in the Caribbean republic is of
particular interest because of the high level of death-penalty sentencing
there. The sociologists’ findings are published in the British Journal of
“It has been hard to measure capital punishment as a deterrent to murder in the
U.S. because it is administered infrequently,” explains Greenberg. “By
contrast, in Trinidad and Tobago, the chances of actually being executed have
historically been much higher.”
In the United States, the death penalty was reinstated by states more than 30
years ago—following a 1976 landmark Supreme Court ruling—while capital
punishment has not existed in Canada or in western Europe for several decades.
By contrast, Trinidad and Tobago had high rates of death-penalty sentencing and
executions prior to a 1993 court ruling, which barred the death penalty for
inmates on death row longer than 5 years, thereby reducing the number of
executions and death-penalty sentences. Though the courts continue to impose
death sentences, none has been carried out in more than a decade.
The researchers note that from 1955 to 1980, homicide rates were relatively
stable in Trinidad and Tobago, ranging from 4.44 per 100,000 (1955) to 4.34
(1980) during this period. However, during this same stretch, executions ranged
from a high of 16 in 1969 to zero between 1980 and 1993.
By contrast, when executions rose to 11 in 1999, the murder rate rose in nearly
every subsequent year until 2007, the last year calculated. In 2007, 391
homicides were recorded in Trinidad and Tobago—a country with a population of
just 1,328,412—resulting in a rate of 29.4 per 100,000 population. This
compares to a U.S. homicide rate in the same year of 5.6 per 100,000
The researchers acknowledged the role geography could play into the findings.
“Generalizations from Trinidad and Tobago to other settings must obviously be
made cautiously,” they write. “Every country has distinctive elements of
culture, social structure, and social organization that may influence the way
its population responds to criminal justice sanctions, including the death
Murders in the republic have risen dramatically since 2000—when executions
ceased, even though death-penalty sentences have continued—but this change says
little about the impact of capital punishment as a deterrent to murder,
“We can reject the argument that the cessation of executions brought about a
big increase in murder in the last decade—in earlier years, big swings in the
execution rate had no visible effect and the 11 executions in 1999 brought
about no detectable drop in homicides.”
First Death Sentencing Since Revolution in Manouba Murder Case
The Primary Court of Tunis has recently issued the 1st capital punishment
sentence since the ousting of Tunisia's former president Zine el-Abidine Ben
The judge presiding over the case sentenced the defendant to death by hanging
for the murder of a high school student in Manouba on March 20, 2011. The
victim, a 13 year-old high school student, was stabbed by his 30 year-old
assailant during a mugging.
As Tunisia strives toward the application of transitional justice, concerns
related to human rights have gained heightened precedence. Accordingly, human
rights activists have prioritized advocacy efforts toward the abolition of the
The Tunisian Human Rights League, established a coalition against death penalty
in Tunisia in 2007. While the organization presented their initiative to the
government of the former Tunisian president, the project was never implemented.
Hatem Chaabouni, an official at the International League for Human Rights,
stated his NGOs opposition to the current standing of Tunisian law as it
applies to capital punishment. "The right to live is a right that can never be
confiscated by anyone - especially the government - no matter what crimes were
committed," Chaabouni stated.
Although the death penalty remains within the prerogatives of the Tunisian
judiciary, no criminal has been executed in Tunisia since 1991. In cases
involving a death sentencing, the court typically issues its verdict, but
allows for the defense to opt for an appeal. Following the appeal, the court's
ruling is then lessened to life imprisonment or a prolonged sentence.
"Formally, the judge is supposed to issue the execution sentence whenever he is
faced with the crime of murder. However, enforcing the sentence is another
issue, " stated Mohamed Saidana, a Tunisian lawyer.
Lotfi Azouz, Director at Amnesty International, acknowledged that though this
procedural process is preferable to the full application of capital punishment,
it is nonetheless imperative that the death penalty be abolished from Tunisian
law. "This form of amnesty is a positive sign, but it is not enough. Court
orders should reflect the status of the law."
Execution orders must also receive the signature of the President of the
Republic before any action can be taken toward the implementation of the
punishment. President Moncef Marzouki, a recognized human rights activist, has
formerly pledged that he would never sign any execution order as Tunisia's
Hatem Chaabouni stated that the law should be nullified, as it has been
rendered obsolete by the reality of court proceedings and that it currently
serves only to dilute the credibility of Tunisia's judicial system.
"The court's authority is on the line. How can a court order be announced then
not executed," Chaabouni stated.
Both organizations representatives stated that efforts must be undertaken
through the Constituent Assembly to formally remove capital punishment from
Tunisian legal code when drafting Tunisia's new constitution.
In Tunisian law the death penalty is issued for 23 separate offenses, including
murder, rape, attacks against the internal security of the state, or attacks
against the external security of the state. The Tunisian government has not
ratified any international agreements officially binding it to the prohibition
of the death penalty.
Saudi Arabia beheads drug trafficker
Saudi Arabia on Friday beheaded a man convicted of trafficking drugs in the
kingdom, the interior ministry said. The ministry in a statement carried by the
official SPA news agency said Wahid Atawi, a Saudi national, had confessed to
bringing a quantity of hashish into the country in a bid to sell the banned
substance. His beheading brings to 9 the number of people executed since the
beginning of the year in the kingdom, according to an AFP tally based on
official reports. Amnesty International said the kingdom executed 79 people in
2011. Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences,
including rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking.
(source: Agence France-Presse)
Religious Comment Plus Political Activism Equals Trouble
Demands for religious and speech freedoms in Saudi Arabia have taken a
heightened tone of urgency in the Western media following Saudi journalist
Hamza Kashgari’s ill-advised tweets allegedly denigrating God and the Prophet
Muhammad. Imaginary conversations with the Prophet, deemed an insult in Islam,
landed Kashgari in jail pending trial for blasphemy.
Kashgari’s remarks have sparked outrage in the West over how a man’s seemingly
crisis of faith could lead to a death sentence. Yet there is little to debate
in Saudi Arabia: Blasphemous statements require harsh punishment.
Kashgari had the poor judgment to tweet imaginary conservations with the
Prophet with statements that included, “On your birthday, I will say that I
have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to
me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray
The reaction on Twitter was instantaneous with 30,000 people condemning his
remarks. Many called for his death. Some Saudis created a Facebook page titled
“The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari” with a membership of
more than 13,000 people.
Kashgari attempted to seek asylum in New Zealand, but was detained in Malaysia
and returned to Saudi Arabia where he awaits trial.
The tragic and strange case of Kashgari points to the fine line between freedom
of expression and the religious obligations of Muslims. The issue is also rife
with political implications that complicate Kashgari’s ability to obtain
justice. His predicament also highlights the Western media’s myopic view of
Muslims and the inability to explain the nuances of Islam.
Kashgari does have the death penalty looming over his head, but his execution
is anything but certain. For one, Saudi Arabia has no specific laws for
blasphemy. The Saudi judicial system allows judges to define the crime of
blasphemy and decide punishment if the defendant is found guilty. The court
also must consider Kashgari’s mitigating statements in which he apologized for
the tweets and repented.
Contemporary Islamic scholars generally agree the death penalty is not
mandatory if the individual repents.
If only it was that easy. The absence of codified laws and Saudi Crown Prince
Nayef’s recent comments that Saudi Arabia is a nation of Salafists make it
almost impossible to predict Kashgari’s fate. Salafism, which is a conservative
form of Islam, permits repenting to avoid execution for blasphemy. But Kashgari
and his legal team only have to look to the 2008 case of Sabri Bogday to
recognize the uncertainty that lies ahead. A Saudi judge convicted the Turkish
barber of blasphemy and sentenced him to death. Bogday confessed that he “swore
at Allah” during an argument with a Saudi in Jeddah.
Bogday’s lawyer, Abdul Rahman Al-Lehem, said the judge refused to allow Bogday
to repent, although judges in other blasphemy cases allow individuals to
retract their words.
According to the Jeddah-based English language daily newspaper Arab News,
Bogday’s death sentence stemmed from a ruling based on huddud, or crimes
against the rights of God. The judge chose not to issue a ta’azir ruling, which
is based on Sharia and are crimes against public security. There is
disagreement among Islamic judges whether blasphemy and apostasy are even
huddud offenses. But Bogday escaped execution thanks to a pardon by King
Abdullah and Saudi authorities deported him to Turkey in 2009.
To add further confusion, there is nothing in the Qur’an that clearly
identifies blasphemy as a specific crime. Rather, the offense stems from
incidents recorded during the Prophet’s lifetime and defined later by Islamic
scholars as “reviling” God or the Prophet. The most prominent incident involved
the killing by Muslims of poet Ka’b Al-Ashraf, chief of the Jewish tribe Banu
Nadir, who denigrated the Prophet and plotted his assassination.
Notwithstanding the veritable crapshoot Kashgari faces in the kingdom’s legal
system, Saudi Arabia has demonstrated some measure of consistent leniency in
blasphemy cases. The last known execution for blasphemy was 19 years ago when
Sadiq Abdul-Karim Malallah, a Shi’ite, was executed following convictions
blasphemy and apostasy. It’s unclear how the charges originated, but Malallah’s
execution followed his refusal to agree to a Saudi judge’s request to convert
from Shia to Sunni.
Since Malallah’s execution, Saudi authorities have taken a more tempered
approach, although religious politics sometimes tinges the prosecution of
Schoolteacher Muhammad Al-Harbi was sentenced in 2005 to 40 months in prison on
a blasphemy conviction for discussing the causes of terrorism and Christianity
In 2006, journalist Rabah Al-Quqai wrote about hardline Islamists’ strict
interpretations of the Qur’an and warned of extremists intending to attack
targets in Riyadh. He avoided prison by promising to defend Islam in future
Like the Kashgari case, many Saudi blasphemy cases stem individuals’ personal
views of Islam. To the Ummah, one’s relationship with Allah is a matter best
kept to one’s own counsel. While the Muslim world largely embraces freedom of
speech, it parts ways with the Western interpretation when discussions turn to
Allah and the Prophet.
“You can belong to any of the 4 schools of thought in Islam – Hanafi, Shafi’i,
Maliki or Hanbali – but when it comes to Allah and the Prophet, peace be upon
him, no one is to ever question or challenge them,” one Saudi told me recently.
While Kashgari’s tweets are egregious in the minds of Muslims and leave no
doubt among Saudi authorities that blasphemy and apostasy charges are
necessary, the wider issue remains whether Kashgari’s activism will play a role
in whatever punishment he is likely to face.
Kashgari told The Daily Beast website that he was a “scapegoat for a larger
conflict” over his comments. “I view my actions as part of a process toward
freedom,” he said.
“I was demanding my right to practice the most basic human rights – freedom of
expression and thought – so nothing was done in vain.” In a tweet, he wrote
that Saudi women “won’t go to hell because it’s impossible to go there twice.’”
Although his views on women’s rights probably will never be aired in a
courtroom, his feminist advocacy looms large among influential conservatives
who have aggressively condemned campaigns by Saudi women and their male
supporters for the right to drive a car and to ease or drop male guardianship
laws to make it easier to find employment or pursue an education.
Conservatives have waged a campaign to silence reform-minded Saudis by
attacking their faith, making Kashgari a prime target.
In effect, the Saudi conservative establishment views his tweets, compounded by
his attitudes towards a liberal democracy, as evidence of pattern of conduct to
erode the fabric of Saudi society. The Saudi legal system criminalizes such
conduct as criminal offenses, although there is no precise definition.
Despite the vagaries of the Saudi judicial system, Kashgari’s death sentence is
not a sure thing if the courts follow Salafism and accept his repentance.
But add his political activism to his ill-tempered religious remarks and
Kashgari may find the path to re-enter Saudi society a difficult journey.
Did Saudi prince buy Fox's silence?
Have you heard about the 23-year-old Saudi journalist who tweeted an imaginary
conversation with Muhammad? It went something like this: He loved Muhammad, he
hated Muhammad, he couldn't understand Muhammad, he wasn't going to pray for
Muhammad. If this isn't exactly a disquisition on faith and doubt a la "The
Brothers Karamazov," remember, we're just talking Twitter.
The journalist received so many mostly white-hot angry tweets from
co-religionists condemning his Islamic law-breaking "blasphemy" (30,000 in 24
hours!) that he apologized and fled the country. He hoped to seek asylum in New
Zealand but was captured in Malaysia by Saudi agents who returned him to "the
Kingdom." There, according to Shariah (Islamic law), he now faces the death
penalty for "blasphemy."
If you haven't heard of this young man, whose name is Hamza Kashgari, it could
be because you're watching too much Fox News. As of this writing, almost a week
after the Kashgari story broke, I haven't found a single story about it at the
Fox News website. (You try: www.foxnews.com.) Meanwhile, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC
and CNN have all reported the Kashgari story, clueing in their viewers on how
far totalitarian Islam, Saudi style, will go to exert its control over the
human spirit. But not Fox.
Say — you don't suppose the fact that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns the
second-largest block of stock (7 percent) in News Corp., Fox News' parent
company, not to mention a new $300 million stake in Twitter (almost 4 percent),
has anything to do with Fox's silence on this Saudi black eye of a story? After
all, it was Saudi dictator King Abdullah — Alwaleed's uncle — whom press
accounts credit with ordering the tweeting journalist's hot pursuit and
imprisonment. And it is Saudi Arabia's adherence to Islamic limits on free
speech that is driving Kashgari's ordeal.
Maybe it has become institutional Fox thinking to let such news slide for fear
of offending the Saudi prince — or for fear of risking the kind of exposure
that might remind viewers of Fox's connections to Saudi regime interests via
As I've argued in the past, it is these connections that make it incumbent upon
News Corp. to register as a foreign agent. (So, too, should universities that
accept Saudi and other Islamic millions to open departments of Islamic
studies.) Fox's silence on this bell-ringer of a story reinforces the sneaking
suspicion that, conscious or not, there may be an Alwaleed effect on Fox
coverage which, in a conflict of interest, actually serves the House of Saud
before Fox viewers.
Prediction: I don't believe Hamza Kashgari will be executed or even face hard
time for his Twitter "blasphemy." Despite widespread enthusiasm for his demise
among his fellow Saudis — at last count, a Facebook page titled "The Saudi
People Demand Hamza Kashgari's Execution" had a whopping 23,000 members — I'm
guessing Kashgari's already publicized repentance will be accepted by Saudi
poobahs. The crisis will likely end in a gesture of royal magnanimousness. The
new "moderation" of the Kingdom — see, they don't kill you for tweeting! — will
become the story of the day, maybe even "fair and balanced" enough for Fox News
to cover it.
That would make it a win-win situation, at least when it comes to Islamic law
enforcement: Saudi Arabia gets international "modernization" brownie points,
and no one dares break Shariah inside the country anyway, particularly given
the bloodthirsty scorn of the Saudi public. (Remember that Facebook community
of execution-for-"blasphemy" enthusiasts.) No "blasphemy," no "defamation," no
This same issue is part of a much larger story, a terrifying point of parley
between the Islamic world, as represented by the Saudi-based Organization of
Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Free World, as led, still, by the USA. Why
terrifying? Any accommodation of Islamic so-called blasphemy law is an
unconstitutional erosion of American free speech.
I'm mortified to report that the USA, as represented by Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, is working itself into sync with the Saudi, OIC and,
apparently, Fox position that silence on Islam is golden. Last summer, Clinton,
while meeting with the OIC in Turkey (where they throw journalists who cross
the state in jail) to discuss "defamation" of Islam, promoted a de facto
censorship of Islam's critics by calling for "some old-fashioned techniques of
peer pressure and shaming, so that people don't feel that they have the support
to do what we abhor."
Funny, but I don't think Fox covered the secretary of state's menacing comments
about free speech. Not even a tweet's worth.
(source: Diana West, reviewatlas.com)
President Patil most merciful? SC seeks records of death row convicts' mercy
Expressing concern over the delay in deciding over mercy petitions of some
death row convicts, the Supreme Court has sought records of all such cases. The
development comes amidst reports of President Pratibha Patil emerging as the
most merciful in last 30 years.
As per the information received in reply to an application under the Right to
Information (RTI) Act, 91 convicts sought commutation of their death sentences
since 1981. Of these, 31 petitions were accepted.
Out of the total pardons given, 23 were during the tenure of Patil, which is 90
per cent of the total death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. However,
now the question being raised is whether the mercy selective in nature.
The last pardon given by the President was on February 9 to convict Sushil
Murmu. He was found guilty of sacrificing a nine-year-old boy in Jharkhand for
While ruling on Murmu's sentencing, the Supreme Court had said: "His crime is
an illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the 'rarest of rare
cases' in which death is and should be the rule, with no exception whatsoever."
Despite the scathing remarks from the Supreme Court, Murmu has now escaped the
noose. But there have been cases where Patil thought it fit to turn down the
mercy petition upholding death sentence awarded to five individuals.
Those whose mercy petitions were rejected included three killers of former
prime minister Rajiv Gandhi -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, Davinder Pal
Singh Bhullar who killed nine people in an attempt to assassinate Congress
leader Maninderjit Singh Bitta and Mahendra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered
the then secretary of Guwahati Truck Drivers Association, Harakanta Das.
However, on the other side, for 10 years the government has been sitting on the
mercy plea of Parliament attacker Afzal Guru. That forced the apex court to
take note of government's pick and choose policy over presidential pardon.
Expressing concern over delay in deciding over Guru's petition, the Supreme
Court has sought records of all such cases. A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi
and S.J. Mukhopadhyay said the home secretaries of all the states would send
the records of all cases of mercy pleas to the Centre within 3 days.
The Centre would then place the same before the Supreme Court. The SC also made
it clear that states cannot send the records "at their own risk". It wants to
know the process that unfolds the moment the plea reached the competent
The court brushed aside the Centre's contention that delay was caused due to
repeated petitions filed by condemned prisoners in courts.
These observations were made as the apex court was hearing a petition filed by
Bhullar challenging rejection of his mercy plea.
(source: India Today)
President Commuted Death Penalty Of 23 To Life During Her Tenure
President Pratibha Patil, it seems, has been the most merciful of all
presidents during the last 3 decades as she has commuted death sentences of 23
petitioners to life imprisonment during her tenure, which is over 90 % of the
total pardon granted since 1981.
On February 9, she accepted the clemency petition of Sushil Murmu, pending
since 2004, who was convicted for giving ‘bali’ (sacrifice) of a 9-year old boy
in Jharkhand for his own prosperity, an RTI response from Rashtrapati Bhavan
It said that since 1981, 91 convicts knocked the doors of Rashtrapati Bhavan
seeking commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment.
Of these, petitions of 31 individuals were accepted out of which 23 were during
According to the reply provided to applicant Subhash Agrawal, 18 mercy
petitions were still pending before the president.
Patil, however, in exceptional cases, has rejected the petitions of 5
individuals which include the 3 killers of Rajiv Gandhi—Santham, Murughan and
Arivu—and Davinder Pal Singh and Mahedra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered
68-year-old Harakanta Das, the then secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers
Association at a roadside stall.
In Murmu’s case, his sentence was commuted to life by Patil even though he was
convicted for the killing, which was termed by the Supreme Court as “an
illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the ‘rarest of rare
cases’ in which death sentence is and should be the rule, with no exception
(source: Press Trust of India)
MPs: Abolition of Death Penalty - Internal Affair of Belarus
The question of abolishing the death penalty is an internal affair of Belarus,
while the whole Belarusian society should be involved in decision-making on
this issue. This is stated in a joint press release of February 23 by the
standing committees of the House of Representatives for International Affairs
and the CIS Relations and Legislation, Judicial and Legal Affairs.
Deputies note that the norms of the international law (Article 6 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) let executions be carried
out for "the most serious crimes on the basis of the courts judgments, applying
all but minors and pregnant women."
"The Republic of Belarus strictly observes its international obligations in
this matter, and our legislation goes even further in this question. In
accordance with the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, the death penalty
is applicable only for crimes associated with the deliberate deprivation of
life under aggravating circumstances and is prohibited with respect to all
women, minors and men over 65 years without any exception," said in a news
According to the deputies, the death penalty in Belarus is, "in fact,
represented by single, exceptional cases based on an assessment of all the
circumstances of the gravity of the offense."
MPs: Parliament interferes in the internal affairs of Belarus
"European Parliament Resolution on the death penalty in Belarus is a
continuation of the practice of exerting pressure on the Belarusian authorities
and interference in the internal affairs of our state. The European Parliament
seems to be concerned less about that the reliability and validity of facts,"
say the members of the House of Representatives.
They note that "on the basis of some non-governmental organizations’
information," the European Parliament flatly acknowledges the Supreme Court
decision in the case of Belarus Dmitri Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev as
unfair, "despite the fact that the consideration of this case was openly
conducted ad highlighted by the media. Citing anonymous observers during the
trial, the authors of the resolution point to the alleged serious procedural
violations during the investigation and trial," emphasize the deputies.
According to them, "the fact that our state is called "Belarusian Federation"
in the text, posted on the official website of the European Parliament, is
indicative of the quality of resolution."
As Telegraf previously reported, February 16, the European Parliament adopted a
resolution on Belarus, which condemned the use of the death penalty. MEPs
called on the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to impose a moratorium
on all death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death
penalty from the penal system. They also called to pardon Dmitri Konovalov and
Vladislav Kovalev, sentences for allegedly committing terrorist attacks in
After death sentence confirmed, bereaved family of young mom and baby takes
13 years after a mother and her baby daughter were murdered in Hikari,
Yamaguchi Prefecture, the defendant's appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court,
effectively setting his death sentence in stone.
"The appeal is rejected," announced Presiding Judge Seishi Kanetsuki at 3 p.m.
on Feb. 20. Hiroshi Motomura, 35, whose then 23-year-old wife and 11-month-old
daughter were murdered in 1999, had been listening to the sentence with his
eyes shut, carrying photos of his loved ones in his arms. He bowed deeply
toward the four justices assigned to the case, and turned to the mother of his
"It's been a long journey," he said to her.
At a press conference held at the Legal Press Club in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki
district later that day, Motomura started out by saying: "Thank you for your
continued interest in the case for 13 years."
"The past 13 years were years of agony. I'm satisfied as a bereaved family
member, but in no way do I feel any joy," Motomura went on to say. "There are
no winners in the sentence."
The defendant-turned-death-row-inmate, now 30, had been 18 years old at the
time of the murders. Motomura said he ruminated over and over about whether the
perpetrator should be given another chance or pay for his transgressions with
his life. But Motomura seemed sure of the court decision after it was handed
"Japan has the death penalty, according to which an 18-year-old can be
sentenced to death. I see the sentence as one the judges agonized over without
getting caught up in the number of victims, and astutely assessing the
defendant," Motomura told reporters.
The Supreme Court pointed out in its sentence that the defendant's denial of
any intent to kill, in complete contrast to his statements in earlier court
proceedings, was an "absurd excuse."
Motomura, meanwhile, seemed at times torn, saying: "If the defendant had showed
remorse, he would not have been sentenced to death. It's a shame. The courts
decided not to give the defendant a chance to start fresh. I hope he reflects
over his crime, moves beyond it, and accepts the sentence."
The case led to improvements in the rights of victims' families, including
priority in obtaining the right to observe trial proceedings and permission to
make statements to the defendant in court. Meanwhile, Motomura also said he
resented being characterized by the public as a death penalty advocate after he
was shown displaying raw emotion in court and elsewhere.
"Time has been my most treasured confidant. It's allowed me to view the case
with level-headedness," Motomura told reporters. "I hope we don't put three
lives (of my wife, daughter, and the defendant) to waste, and use this as an
opportunity to attain a society in which we wouldn't have to use the death
At the end of the hour-long press conference, during which Motomura spoke to
reporters quietly, in a reserved tone, he revealed that he'd remarried in 2009,
and has been visiting the graves of his then wife and daughter with his new
wife. Of his new partner, Motomura said: "She's a wonderful person who can
support a weak person like me. I think it's important that I don't go through
life with my head down, hanging on to the case, and instead look forward and
live with a smile."
Meanwhile, Kenji Utsunomiya, president of the Japan Federation of Bar
Associations, released a comment expressing regret toward the court's decision.
"It fails to consider the unique characteristics of juvenile cases ... I once
again seek that the government undertake a drastic review toward the abolition
of the death penalty for defendants who are underage at the time crimes are
committed," he said.
(source: The Mainichi Daily News)
Murder case shouldn't set precedent
The Supreme Court's No. 1 Petit Bench in a 3-1 decision on Feb. 20 upheld a
high court ruling that sentenced a man to death for raping and strangling
housewife Yayoi Motomura, 23, and murdering her 11-month-old daughter Yuka in
Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999. Juvenile Law prohibits sentencing to
death persons who were younger than 18 at the time they committed their crime.
The defendant, Takayuki Otsuki, was 18 years and a month old when he committed
the double murder.
A danger exists that the top court's decision could set a strong precedent for
trials dealing with heinous crimes by minors. This should not be allowed to
happen despite the gravity of such crimes because the possibility of
rehabilitation is very high for juveniles.
In 2 earlier trials, the Yamaguchi District Court and the Hiroshima High Court
gave Otsuki a life sentence on the grounds that he was only 1 month older than
18 at the time of the crimes and that there was a strong possibility that he
could be rehabilitated. But the Supreme Court remanded the case to the
Hiroshima High Court, saying that the defendant's age is no longer a critical
factor to avoid handing down a death sentence. In the retrial the high court
sentenced Otsuki to death.
On Feb. 20, the nation's top court turned down Otsuki's appeal citing the
seriousness of the crime and his responsibility, despite his being a minor when
he committed the murders and the possibility that he could still be
rehabilitated. The decision strengthens the trend of attaching more importance
to the seriousness of a crime's consequence and the feelings of the victim's
family in crimes committed by minors.
In 1983, the Supreme Court set down a standard that treated a death sentence as
exceptional and stated that the death penalty can be allowed when it is the
most just and logical choice. The standard stipulated several factors must be
considered when handing out a death sentence, including the motivation behind
the crime, the degree of cruelty, the seriousness of the crime's consequence,
the feelings of the victim's family and the age of the criminal.
No one will argue that Otsuki's crimes were not horrific. Still, the
possibility that he could be rehabilitated should have been given more weight.
The one dissenting justice pointed out that Otsuki's mental and moral maturity
were low for his age and stated that this should have been a mitigating factor
in deciding his fate. He said the court needed to look more into the
circumstances that contributed to his character and mental state. We agree, and
hope that this case does not set a strong precedent.
(source: Editorial, The Japan Times)
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