Hayashi Koji Case

Lay judges put emotions aside in sentencing killer of 2 to life imprisonment
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010

Lay judges who tried the accused killer of two women calmly evaluated the bereaved family's emotional calls for harsh punishment against the defendant but chose not to sentence the man to death.

"The defendant's acts are hardly forgivable, and it's only natural that the bereaved family of the victims is asking for the ultimate penalty," the presiding judge representing the team of professional and lay judges at the Tokyo District Court said as it sentenced Koji Hayashi, 42, to life imprisonment. "We thoroughly discussed whether there is a room for sentencing him to death, but didn't reach a conclusion that the death penalty was the only choice."

Under judicial precedent, the murder of two people is regarded as the dividing line between the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Noting that the defendant committed the crime not for the purpose of robbery and that he had no previous criminal record, one professional judge who was not involved in the trial said, "The majority of professional judges would probably be in favor of avoiding the death penalty in this case."

"I don't think the death penalty is the only choice for this case in the eyes of everybody," said a high-ranking prosecutor with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office. He thus suggested that prosecutors demand the death penalty for Hayashi in a way that allowed lay judges to choose between the death penalty and a life prison term.

The prosecutors' office then emphasized that the bereaved family of the victims -- 21-year-old Miho Ejiri and her 78-year-old grandmother Yoshie Suzuki -- had requested that the defendant be sentenced to death. In the closing argument, a prosecutor quoted statements by members of the victims' bereaved family about the incident.

Despite the moving pleas, the citizen judges tried not to be swayed by emotion.

A lay judge in her 30s told a subsequent news conference that the bereaved family's request for harsh punishment was just one of the factors involved in the sentencing. "Statements by the bereaved family made me shed tears, but I made the judgment after listening to everybody's opinions."

The ruling dismissed the assertion, which the defense counsel made in a bid to avoid the death penalty, that the defendant has regretted his crime.

"The defendant stuck with his definition of what constitutes romantic attachment (to one of the victims). It can't be recognized that he has seriously looked back on the incident or sincerely regretted his crime," the ruling said.

Still, the ruling pointed out that there had been changes in the defendant's words and attitudes since he listened directly to the bereaved family's statements during court hearings.

"I felt that there were subtle changes in the defendant's feelings," another lay judge in her 30s recalled.

The ruling shows that the lay and professional judges deliberated on the case in line with the so-called Nagayama standards for the death penalty, which the Supreme Court showed in 1983 in ordering a lower court to have a retrial for Norio Nagayama after it sentenced him to life imprisonment for murdering four people when he was 19 years old. It also suggests that the team concluded that Hayashi's case did not meet the standards.

However, another lay judge in his 30s said he was not bound by the standards. "The Nagayama values were worked out solely by professional judges. I expressed my feelings, believing the participation by members of the public in the trial would be meaningless unless I did so."

His feelings were apparently reflected in the ruling's mention of "the defendant's regret."

Prosecutors have expressed dissatisfaction with some points in the sentencing.

A high-ranking prosecutor raised questions about the ruling that attributed the defendant's questionable behavior to his immaturity. "What does the immaturity of a 42-year-old man's personality mean?"

Even though prosecutors have so far respected the sentencing in lay-judge trials, there are growing calls within prosecutors' offices urging that they raise questions about judgments made by members of the general public if necessary. (By Naotaka Ito, City News Department)

Lay judges let killer of two avoid gallows
Kyodo News
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010

A 42-year-old man was sentenced to life Monday for murdering two women in Tokyo last year, avoiding what could have been the first death penalty handed down under the lay judge system that went into effect last year.

Prosecutors had sought capital punishment for Koji Hayashi at the Tokyo District Court. Hayashi had admitted killing Miho Ejiri, 21, who worked at an ear-cleaning shop he frequented as a customer, and her grandmother, Yoshie Suzuki, 78, in August last year.

The trial was the first to test the panel of lay and professional judges with a demand for the death penalty.

Presiding Judge Atsuo Wakazono said in the ruling that Hayashi's motives were selfish and nearsighted, and the judges were deeply moved by the relatives of the victims, who wanted Hayashi to go to the gallows.

However, the court also said that Hayashi had become severely depressed because he felt he had established a good relationship with Ejiri, yet was barred from her workplace for unclear reasons.

According to the ruling, Hayashi was quite determined to kill Ejiri but not Suzuki, whose murder was not premeditated.

The court also said Hayashi didn't commit the crime because he was antisocial or cruel in nature, but because he was immature.

Hayashi, who apparently had romantic feelings for Ejiri, broke into the victims' Tokyo home on Aug. 3, 2009, and first encountered Suzuki, whom he struck on the head with a hammer before slashing her throat.

He then proceeded to stab Ejiri in the neck. She died of her wounds the following month.

The court opted to sentence Hayashi to life, expecting him to suffer and reflect on his misdeeds until the end of his life, the judge said.

At the closing argument last week, Hayashi's lawyers said the defendant was suffering from depression at the time of the crime.

Since his arrest, Hayashi has been sending letters of apology to the next of kin, the lawyers added.

The lay judges consisted of two men and four women.

If the panel reaches a split decision on punishment, a majority of the nine judges, including at least one of the three professional judges, must decide the sentence.

"If this case is subject to life in prison, then how many should one have to kill to be executed?" asked Ejiri's father after the ruling was handed down.

Four of the lay judges and two alternates who voluntarily attended a press conference said that judging the case was tough.

"I tried to view the case in a neutral light and thought hard about whether the decision I made was the right one," one of the male lay judges said.

"During the two weeks, I kept thinking of both the defendant and the families of the victims," said a female lay judge who was attempting to describe the pressure she was under.

The group said it was their collective opinion that Hayashi spend the rest of life regretting his crime.

Prosecutors seek death penalty for 1st time in lay judge trial

26th October, 2010

Prosecutors sought capital punishment on Monday for the first time in the lay judge trial system in the case of a 42-year-old man over the murders of two women in Tokyo last year.

The judiciary system involving citizen judges was introduced in May last year.

The prosecution said in its closing arguments in the trial of Koji Hayashi at the Tokyo District Court that the defendant committed a ‘‘cruel and premeditated act based on an extremely strong intention to murder.’‘

During the trial, Hayashi admitted to killing Miho Ejiri, 21, who worked at an ear-cleaning salon where he frequented as a customer, and her grandmother, Yoshie Suzuki, 78, in August last year.

In Monday’s hearing, the defense counsel, in its closing arguments, said Hayashi should not be given the death penalty as he is repentant about what he did.

Following the conclusion of the trial Monday, six citizen judges and three professional judges will enter deliberations through Friday to decide on the punishment for Hayashi. The ruling is scheduled to be handed down on Nov 1.

Prior to the prosecution’s closing arguments, a lawyer representing the 57-year-old father of Ejiri read his statement which asked for the death penalty to be imposed on the defendant.

‘‘Every time I see women around the same age (as my daughter), tears well up in my eyes,’’ the father said in the statement. ‘‘My wife (who was at the scene of the murders) cannot go outside or talk about Miho since the incident.’‘

Concerning last Thursday’s hearing for questioning Hayashi, the father said the defendant ‘‘evaded questions that were unfavorable for him’’ and that he could not feel a desire to apologize.

When a male citizen judge asked Hayashi how he felt upon hearing the bereaved family’s statement, the defendant said, ‘‘I have done something so terrible that I cannot apologize enough for it. I am sorry.’‘

Earlier in the day’s hearing, a psychiatrist who testified at the defense lawyers’ request said Hayashi’s ability to judge between right and wrong had weakened at the time of the incident.

Hayashi, who had unilateral romantic feelings toward Ejiri, intruded into the victims’ home in Tokyo on Aug 3, 2009, and killed Suzuki by hitting her head with a hammer and stabbing her in the neck, according to the indictment.

He was also accused of stabbing Ejiri in the neck, causing her to die the following month.


Man pleads guilty to charge of killing 2 women
20th October, 2010

A 42-year-old man pleaded guilty Tuesday to the murders of two women in Tokyo last year, in a lay judge trial during which prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty for the first time since the introduction of the new system in August last year.

At the first hearing at the Tokyo District Court, Koji Hayashi admitted to killing Miho Ejiri, 21, who worked at an ear-cleaning shop, and her grandmother, Yoshie Suzuki, 78.

The focus of the trial is now on how severe a punishment the citizen judges—four women and two men—and three professional judges will impose on the defendant, who offered an apology at the hearing, saying, ‘‘I feel sorry that I did something irrevocable to the victims.’‘

Hayashi, who was a frequent customer at the ear-cleaning shop and had unilateral romantic feelings toward Ejiri, intruded into the victims’ home in Tokyo on Aug 3, 2009, and killed Suzuki by hitting her head with a hammer and stabbing her, according to the prosecutors. He was also accused of stabbing Ejiri on her neck. Ejiri died the following month.

In their opening statement, the prosecutors said the defendant repeatedly stalked Ejiri after she rejected his visit to her store in April 2009.

Hayashi’s defense lawyers called for leniency, saying he has deeply repented for his acts and written letters of apology every day to the victims’ relatives.


Lay judges expected to weigh death penalty for 1st time
The Yomiuri Shimbun
(Oct. 17, 2010)

Prosecutors may demand the death penalty for the first time in a lay judge trial, against a man who allegedly killed two women last year.

Koji Hayashi, a 42-year-old former company employee of Mihama Ward, Chiba, was arrested for allegedly killing Yoshie Suzuki, 78, and stabbing her 21-year-old granddaughter, Miho Ejiri, after breaking into their house in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Aug. 3, 2009. Ejiri died one month later from her injuries.

Prosecutors allege Hayashi was motivated by unrequited romantic feelings for Ejiri.

Hayashi's lay judge trial will begin Tuesday at the Tokyo District Court.

The defense has decided not to dispute the facts of the case as put forward by the prosecution, and the severity of punishment is expected to be the main issue in the trial.

As more than one person was killed, it is highly likely the death penalty will be sought. If so, it will be the first such instance since the introduction of the lay judge system.

Ejiri's father, 57, reportedly intends to tell the court he wants capital punishment applied. Victims' relatives are allowed to participate in lay judge trials, such as by questioning defendants or providing subjective testimony.

Hayashi apparently first met Ejiri when he visited an ear-cleaning salon in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, and developed a crush on her. Hayashi was quoted by the police as saying during questioning: "Ms. Ejiri rejected me. I got angry and thought about killing her."

According to the indictment, Hayashi broke into Ejiri's house with the intention of killing her, first stabbing her grandmother in the neck with a fruit knife and then stabbing Ejiri in the neck with a different knife.

Prosecutors indicted Hayashi after concluding he could be held fully responsible for the murders, based on the results of a basic psychiatric examination conducted during investigations.

During pretrial procedures to examine evidence, the defense claimed Hayashi's mental state may have been compromised at the time of his alleged crimes, and requested the court order another psychiatric evaluation.

The court agreed, but the results of that second evaluation agreed with those of the first, leading the defense to withdraw its assertion that Hayashi should bear diminished responsibility.

The defense is likely to call for leniency based on Hayashi's admission of guilt and expression of regret for his actions.

An attorney representing Ejiri's father said: "Naturally, the victims' family will demand the death penalty. I want the judges to study the case in a level-headed manner and decide on an appropriate sentence."

Lay judges for the trial will be selected Monday afternoon. Examination of witnesses and the defendant will be held from Tuesday to Friday.

The trial will end Oct. 25 after closing arguments, with a ruling to be delivered on Nov. 1.

Hayashi Koji Case

東京・西新橋の2女性刺殺:地裁、無期判決「内省を期待」 裁判員裁判、死刑を回避