Shiroh Tetsuya

High court commutes death sentence for Nagasaki mayor's killer
September 30, 2009


The Fukuoka High Court on Tuesday commuted a 62-year-old gangster’s death sentence to life imprisonment for the 2007 fatal shooting of Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito during his election campaign. Both the defendant Tetsuya Shiroo and his lawyer had appealed the death sentence given by the Nagasaki District Court in May last year, which was unusual in that the defendant had no criminal record while the case did not involve robbery and had only one victim.

Shiroo shot the 61-year-old mayor twice with a pistol on the evening of April 17, 2007 near his election campaign office in front of JR Nagasaki station as he had become ‘‘desperate after having lost power in his gang and was mired in financial difficulties,’’ according to the ruling. Judge Shoichi Matsuo said the ‘‘extremely irrational’’ shooting took place after the city office declined to extend loans to an acquaintance of Shiroo’s, calling the demand ‘‘selfish’’ and ‘‘typical of a gang.’’

’’There is no factual error in the lower court decision,’’ Matsuo said. But he said he ‘‘couldn’t help but hesitate about choosing the death penalty’’ as ‘‘there was no self-interest aspect like a kidnapping for ransom or robbery, and the main motive was a grudge against the victim and disrupting the election was not intended.’’

In sentencing Shiroo to death, the district court had determined that the crime ‘‘infringed on the people’s right to vote and destabilized democracy at its roots.’’

The sentence of capital punishment was unusual in light of the criteria for giving the death penalty presented in 1983 by the Supreme Court and judicial precedents.

During the appeals proceedings, the defense argued that abolition of the death penalty is an international trend and that even if his punishment is commuted, Shiroo will be unlikely to return to society in his lifetime as he suffers diabetes and cerebral thrombosis.


Gangster sentenced to death for killing Nagasaki mayor

Death sentence for Nagasaki Mayor Murderer--true justice or politics.

POINT OF VIEW/ Kaoru Takamura:



In late May, the Nagasaki District Court handed the death sentence to Tetsuya Shiroo, a former senior member of a yakuza group, for fatally shooting Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh while he was campaigning for re-election in April last year.

The ruling stated that "the crime has shaken democracy to its foundations" and determined that capital punishment is inevitable despite a judicial tradition of not ordering the ultimate penalty when a single life has been taken. I have strong misgivings about the ruling.

Was the incident really tantamount to an act of terrorism against the democratic order? It had been reported that the accused used a Nagasaki construction company to tap funds for his activities and the company was facing financial difficulties because it could not land contracts for the city's public works projects.

Although the company applied for a public loan for medium and small businesses, the city turned down its application. The accused claimed it was unjust and took the case to a district public prosecutors office. But the prosecutors office dismissed the allegation. Apparently, the developments triggered the shooting incident.

The district court ruled that the accused acted on a misdirected grudge he developed against the mayor based on the notion that he was slighted by the city. But I feel there is a gulf between the events that led to the crime and the logic that it constitutes "a threat to democracy."

The accused depended on public works projects doled out by the city to make a living. First, what this fact illustrates is the cozy and murky relationship between local governments and private companies over public works projects that has remained intact for so many years.

In recent years, as local governments are increasingly facing financial woes, budgets for public works projects are being cut. Against this backdrop, it is clear that such collusion lacks transparency and no longer works like as it once did.

Now that the system of profit-sharing among industry associations and organized crime groups has fallen apart, it has become impossible to hold on to members who have lost their means of making a livelihood and have nowhere to go.

In regional communities, it appears the mind-set that is unique to yakuza still thrives. Having lost their cut of the take that they took for granted, gangsters who could no longer make ends meet must feel driven to take out their grudge on someone.

The accused must have jumped to the hasty conclusion that the mayor was to blame for his misfortune.

Actually, all the trial revealed was the collapse of such traditional systems concerning public works projects ordered by local governments, and little more.

If so, as long as it was a criminal trial, properly speaking, what the court needed to focus on was the background that led the accused to kill the mayor. In other words, how was the accused involved in public works projects? Did he have connections that helped him land contracts? How did his business come to a standstill and what made him decide to kill the mayor? In short, what the court should have done was to examine the motive.

But while the district court simply concluded the crime was a shortsighted act caused by unjust resentment harbored by the accused, it went on to rule that his act constituted a threat against democracy. This is clearly jumping to conclusions.

The ruling appears to have attached importance to the fact that the incident occurred during an election campaign. I find it questionable that the court focused more on campaign obstruction than the motive that led to the crime.

Before debating the propriety of the death sentence, I feel a sense of crisis that such an arbitrary decision is so readily accepted. The fact that the decision was made by professional judges, not citizen judges who will take part in forming rulings from next year, is also a serious problem.

Up to now, Japanese trials have been known for their strict application of the law. Courts have traditionally stood by the principle that precedents are nothing more or less than precedents. At the same time, they maintained fairness by keeping a distance from wavering public opinion that has kept changing with the times.

It is this fairness that served as the very foundation of our democratic society. I do not believe democracy is about arbitrarily changing standards of judgment to accommodate the intentions of the Justice Ministry and public opinion, which are seeking tougher punishments for crimes.

Generally speaking, courts are reluctant to advocate democracy in administrative lawsuits, pollution cases and lawsuits filed by victims of drug-induced illness. Why champion democracy in a criminal lawsuit? I find something creepy about the ruling.


2008/26th May


A 60-year-old gangster was sentenced to death Monday for fatally shooting Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito during his election campaign in April last year. Tetsuya Shiroo shot Ito, 61, twice with a pistol on the evening of April 17 near the mayor’s election campaign office in front of JR Nagasaki station, according to prosecutors’ closing argument at the Nagasaki District Court. Ito died six and a half hours later in hospital.

The crime ‘‘was extremely outrageous and heinous,’’ Presiding Judge Yoshimichi Matsuo said. ‘‘It infringed people’s right to vote and destabilized democracy from its roots.’’ Shiroo blamed financial troubles he had on the city’s refusal to extend loans to a construction firm he was associated with, and his grievance became focused on the mayor, according to the prosecutors. Shiroo decided in February 2007, when Ito declared his candidacy for the election, to kill him in order to prevent his reelection, they said.


Gallows sought for yakuza assassin of Nagasaki mayor

NAGASAKI -- The one-time yakuza who assassinated Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito should be made to pay the ultimate penalty for "shaking the core of freedom and democracy," prosecutors told the Nagasaki District Court on Wednesday.

Prosecutors demanded 60-year-old ex-yakuza Tetsuya Shiroo be found guilty and sentenced to death for gunning down the 61-year-old Ito as he campaigned for re-election on the streets of Nagasaki in February last year.
"It was an act that stifled debate, shook the core of freedom and democracy and was clearly electoral terrorism," a prosecution lawyer told the court.

Shiroo, who has entered a guilty plea but denied any premeditation in Ito's death, was due to have lawyers present his closing arguments on Wednesday afternoon before the hearing in his murder trial adjourned prior to sentencing.
"I only thought of killing him for the first time when our eyes met (immediately before the shooting)," Shiroo told the court.

Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito lies on the ground outside JR Nagasaki Station after being shot on April 17, 2007. This photo by Mainichi photographer Shuchiro Nagasawa won last year's Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association Prize, the nation's top journalism award. (Mainichi file)
Shiroo has apologized to the slain mayor's family, but the former member of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza gang told his trial he doesn't know what motivated him to shoot dead the politician.

Prosecutors, however, said that Shiroo decided to kill Ito in late February last year due to his poor financial state after the mayor announced he would run for a fourth term.
Shiroo is accused of shooting Ito on the night of April 17 last year near the mayor's campaign office in front of JR Nagasaki Station. Ito died 6 1/2 hours later in a hospital.


長崎市長射殺:元暴力団幹部、無期確定へ 最高裁