Gunma man gets life for killing 5 relatives
Tuesday 13th January, 2009

The Gifu District Court sentenced a former public servant to life imprisonment Tuesday for killing five members of his family at his home in Gifu Prefecture in 2005. Presiding Judge Mihoko Tanabe found Taira Hara, 61, mentally competent, rejecting the defense counsel’s argument that the defendant was in a state of diminished mental capacity at the time of the crime.

Tanabe, however, rejected prosecutors’ demand that Hara be hanged, ruling that there is room for leniency as ‘‘it was a family suicide attempt after the defendant was hard-pressed psychologically, and the court cannot recognize that the crime was well-planned and cruel.’’

The presiding judge said she hesitated to give the death penalty also because the bereaved family members do not want him to be executed. ‘‘The defendant should pay true compensation by living out his remaining life and praying for the souls of the victims,’’ she said.

Hara fatally strangled his mother Chiyoko, 85, and his son Tadashi, 33, at his home in Nakatsugawa, Gifu Prefecture, on Feb. 27, 2005. He also strangled his daughter Kozue Fujii, 30, her son Kohei, 2, and her 3-week-old daughter Ayana, while injuring Kozue’s husband Takayuki, 43, by stabbing him with a kitchen knife, according to the ruling.

Touching on the motives behind the crime, the judge said Hara’s mother had harassed his wife and that the defendant had been disgusted with himself for failing to complain about it.

Hara had pleaded guilty, while prosecutors had sought the death penalty. The defense counsel had called for a less severe punishment, saying the defendant had a diminished mental capacity.