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Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007

Prison eased for killer of parents

High court rules abusive father drove boy to violence


Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Monday trimmed two years off the prison sentence of an 18-year-old youth convicted of stabbing his parents to death and causing an explosion at the family's Tokyo residence in 2005, acknowledging the boy suffered at the hands of an abusive father.

The case stirred debate when the Tokyo District Court last December handed the defendant a 14-year prison term, even though he was 15 at the time of the killings.

It was the first case in which an actual prison sentence was meted out to a defendant under 16, after the minimum punishable age was lowered from 16 to 14 via a revision of the Juvenile Law in April 2001.

Presiding Judge Ritsuro Uemura stated in the ruling that the defendant bore "significant criminal liability" that left no option but to apply an actual prison sentence.

But in reducing the sentence to 12 years, Uemura acknowledged that the abuse by the boy's father was a factor in triggering the crime. The defendant, whose name is being withheld because he was a minor at the time of the crime, had filed an appeal after the lower court rejected claims of domestic abuse.

The defendant appeared in court in a white fleece jacket accompanied by three guards. He did not turn to the gallery once during the 60-minute ruling.

His lawyers said they were uncertain whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court but revealed that their client was satisfied that the high court recognized his father's maltreatment.

"I would like to live the rest of my life atoning for the crimes," lawyer Yuri Kawamura quoted the defendant as saying after the verdict.

According to the court, the son beat his 44-year-old father in the head with an 8-kg dumbbell and slashed his throat with a kitchen knife on June 20, 2005. His mother sustained more than 40 stab wounds from a 26-cm blade.

"The defendant repeatedly stabbed his mother even after she fled under a table," the judge said, adding the attack was so fierce that the tip of the knife was found embedded in the woman's skull.

Following the killings, the defendant returned to his room and viewed an adult animated movie on the Internet before severing a gas hose to trigger an explosion.

The family's residence was located on the first floor of a construction company dormitory in Itabashi Ward, where they worked as live-in janitors.

The youth was found two days later at an inn in the hot spring town of Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture, after an employee learned of the homicides and became suspicious of the lone guest.

During interrogations, the boy confessed to the killings and said he had been unhappy with his father, who forced him to help with janitor chores and barred him from playing video games.

He reportedly said that he decided to stab his mother as well because he believed she would suffer if she survived as a widow.

Although he had pleaded guilty, his attorneys argued that he should be tried by the Tokyo Family Court because of his age and abusive upbringing.



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