Supreme Court upholds death penalty for 'exorcist' over deaths of 6 followers

September 17, 2008

The Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday lower-court rulings that sentenced a self-claimed exorcist to death for the deaths of six followers, tossing out her not-guilty appeal. The top court said the criminal responsibility of the defendant, 61-year-old Sachiko Eto, was ‘‘exceptionally grave’’ because she formed a religious group by claiming to be a god’s messenger and condemned her followers to death by violent means using her absolute power on them.

The defense argued that Eto was not guilty, saying she had been mentally incompetent because she was being possessed, and that the court should at least be more lenient by determining her to have been partially incompetent. Eto conspired with others in beating followers with drumsticks in her house in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, where she lived with them, between December 1994 and June 1995 as a way of forcing demons out of their bodies, the Sendai High Court said in the November 2005 ruling.