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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Woman who cut up husband gets 15 years

Staff writer

A 33-year-old woman was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for killing and dismembering her husband, with the Tokyo District Court finding her liable for the murder despite being in an impaired mental state brought on by years of severe spousal abuse.

Kaori Mihashi was found guilty of fatally striking her husband, Yusuke, with a wine bottle in December 2006 and disposing of his body parts around Tokyo after cutting up the corpse in the couple's condominium in Shibuya Ward.

Presiding Judge Masaya Kawamoto acknowledged that Mihashi "lived through hell" because of the repeated abuse at her husband's hand, which at one point drove her to seek asylum at a domestic violence shelter.

But while the abuse and subsequent mental disorder "may have influenced the crime, it was not at the level that would acquit the accused of criminal charges," Kawamoto said.

While acknowledging the findings of court-appointed psychiatrists, who said Mihashi was suffering from a temporary mental disorder during the killing, the judge also said the court considered other aspects of the murder to determine her mental condition and criminal liability.

Some details of the murder, including the accurate and repeated blows to the victim's head, point to Mihashi's full awareness of the act, Kawamoto concluded.

The psychiatrists had determined that Mihashi was mentally incompetent at the time of the crime.

The mental disorder "did not play a role in shaping the crime," thus the accused bears full criminal responsibility for what she did, Kawamoto said.

Mihashi, who appeared in court in white pants, a white sweater and a sleeveless down jacket, nodded to the presiding judge as the sentence was read aloud.

Her lawyers criticized the ruling for finding their client completely liable but revealed that Mihashi has refused to appeal any decision by the district court.

The spousal abuse began shortly after she and her husband were married in March 2003, according to Mihashi's earlier statement to the court. In June 2005, she was taken in at a domestic violence shelter with a broken nose and bruised face but returned to live with her husband a month later.

Her lawyers also charged that her husband kept nude photographs of her and threatened to publicize them if she left him. Yusuke Mihashi, an employee of a Morgan Stanley group-affiliated securities firm, had also told his wife that he would not agree to a divorce on her terms, her lawyers told the court.

Mihashi killed her husband on Dec. 12, 2006, and cut his corpse into five pieces. She dumped the body parts around Tokyo in the following days.

She admitted to the charges during her first trial session in December, but her lawyers argued that she was legally insane and suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder at the time due to her husband's repeated acts of violence.

Two court-appointed psychiatrists also stated during the trial that Mihashi was also physically abused by her father as a child.

"I was helpless. I had nobody to turn to," Mihashi said during her final plea earlier this month.

Meanwhile, prosecutors alleged that Mihashi killed her husband in a fit of anger after a futile discussion over divorce, but the judge rejected the accusation and ruled that the killing was prompted by mental oppression and deep despair.

Prosecutors criticized Mihashi's psychiatric tests as lacking authenticity and asked for a re-examination, which was denied by the court.

Prosecutors had demanded a 20-year prison term, calling the killing a "self-centered crime." They released a statement indicating satisfaction with the court's ruling but added they would study it further before deciding whether to appeal for a longer sentence.

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The Japan Times

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