On April 24, the Hiroshima High Court sentenced a 27-year-old man to death for the 1999 murder of Yayoi Motomura, 23, and her 11-month-old child Yuka, at their home in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The case drew media and public attention because such a brutal crime was committed by a minor. The defendant had earlier been given a life sentence by the Yamaguchi District Court in 2000 for strangling Motomura, raping her afterwards and then killing her daughter.
The decision was confirmed by the high court in 2002 but the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in 2006 after quashing the high court ruling, taking issue with the reasoning of the lower court judges who ruled the sentence was appropriate because the murders were not premeditated and the man was a minor at the time.
The defense counsel for the man, whose identity is still being withheld as the crime was committed when he was a minor, immediately appealed the latest decision to the Supreme Court. The 20-strong lawyers group for the defendant insisted that he was not responsible for his actions, and said the defendant had recently made statements like: "I thought I could revive the woman by having sex with her," and "I left the body of the baby because I believed Doraemon would do something to help her.”
However, the presiding judge dismissed such claims. "It is unnatural and unreasonable for the defendant to be silent for six and half years after indictment if it contradicts the facts.''
Some critics say the defense's strategy did their client more harm than good. “The lawyers focused on denial of the act and failed to show the immature personality of the defendant to judges who finally made the decision that the defendant was lying," said Jin Imaeda who is a former member of the defense team.
The defendant has already appealed to the Supreme Court, but journalist Kazuo Washimi said, “The defense will need a better strategy because judges these days care about the public's sympathy for the victim. They cannot ignore it. So the final appeal to the Supreme Court will most likely be refused."
Imaeda suggested that the defense release their client's photo and name to the public. He adds, “I thought if we had made his face and name public, we would have more sympathy for him because he looked very immature for his real age like he was a junior high school student. I thought the public would understand his 'immaturity' at the time of the case. However, my proposal was not accepted.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)© Japan Today