Tsuda Sumitoshi


Japan executes 2 inmates
19 Dec 2015

Japan on Friday carried out the first execution of an inmate sentenced to death in a lay judge trial following the country’s introduction of the judicial system in 2009, Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki said.

Along with Sumitoshi Tsuda, 63, another death row inmate, Kazuyuki Wakabayashi, 39, was hanged in the first executions in Japan since June.

Tsuda was convicted of killing his landlord Akihito Shibata, 73, Shibata’s brother Yoshiaki, 71, as well as Yoshiaki’s wife Toshiko, 68, in May 2009 at an apartment building in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Wakabayashi was sentenced to death for killing Noriko Ueno, a 52-year-old office worker, and her 24-year-old daughter Yuki after breaking into their home in the town of Hirono, Iwate Prefecture, in July 2006. He later abandoned their bodies in nearby mountains and stole 20,000 yen in cash from the victims.

Anti-death penalty organization Amnesty International Japan protested over Friday’s executions and urged the Japanese government to abolish the death penalty.

The group also said sentencing a person to death is a grave decision for citizen judges and called for more information disclosure to the public regarding the capital punishment system.

Iwaki, who ordered executions for the first time since assuming the post in October, said at a press conference that he believes professional and lay judges handed down the death sentence to Tsuda “after careful deliberations.”

The minister also stressed that he signed the papers to order the executions, respecting the decision of the citizen judges. “I carried out my duties (as the justice minister) given the significant decision of the lay judges,” Iwaki said.

Iwaki condemned Tsuda and Wakabayashi, saying they “took irreplaceable lives for selfish purposes” and that the agony inflicted on the families of the victims will never be healed.

Iwaki declined to comment when asked why the two men were chosen for Friday’s hangings and about future executions.

The minister also said counseling for lay judges needs to be studied, after a citizen judge in Tsuda’s trial said ordinary people should not be involved in determining cases in which prosecutors could demand the death penalty.

The lay judge system was introduced to reflect citizens’ views in criminal court proceedings.

With the latest executions, the number of death row inmates in Japan stands at 126. According to the Supreme Court, 26 have been sentenced to death in lay judge trials and rulings for seven of them have been finalized.

During the lay judge trial, Tsuda apologized to the relatives of the victims, saying he would “expiate his crime with his own life.” While his defense counsel argued that Tsuda’s crime was not premeditated, the Yokohama District Court sentenced him to death in June 2011.

His defense counsel appealed the ruling to the Tokyo High Court, but the death sentence was finalized in July 2011 after Tsuda withdrew his appeal.

Wakabayashi was sentenced to death in April 2007. After the Sendai High Court upheld the lower court ruling, his sentence was finalized in January 2012 as the Supreme Court turned down his appeal.

With the latest hangings, the total number of executions under the second Shinzo Abe administration launched in December 2012 has risen to 14.

Death sentence over triple murder finalized after man withdraws appeal
(Mainichi Japan) July 5, 2011

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) -- A death sentence for a 59-year-old man has been finalized after he withdrew on Monday an appeal over the Yokohama District Court's ruling on a triple murder.

It is the second death sentence delivered in a lay judge trial to be finalized, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office said.

Sumitoshi Tsuda was found guilty at the district court last month of killing three people at his apartment in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, in May 2009, including the owner of the apartment.

His defense counsel filed the appeal with the Tokyo High Court on June 29 on behalf of the defendant who, during the trial, had indicated that he would expiate his crime with his own life.

A 22-year-old university student, who served as a citizen judge in the trial, said he was relieved that the defendant has accepted the verdict, while his lawyer Eiki Tanaka said the defense team was surprised by the withdrawal.

Man sentenced to death in lay judge trial for killing 3
(Mainichi Japan) June 17, 2011

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) -- A 59-year-old man was sentenced to death in a lay judge trial at the Yokohama District Court on Friday for killing three people at his apartment in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, in May 2009.

This was the sixth death sentence given by a lay judge court consisting of three professional and six citizen judges.

The defendant, Sumitoshi Tsuda, was accused of stabbing to death Akihito Shibata, 73, owner of the apartment, Shibata's brother Yoshiaki, 71, as well as Yoshiaki's wife Toshiko, 68.

Seeking the death penalty, prosecutors argued that Tsuda had a heightened sense of anger against Yoshiaki, who lived next door, for making a noise and murdered the three with a firm intention to kill them. Arguing for a life sentence, his defense counsel said Tsuda had acted impulsively.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Akiyama said in the ruling, "It was a cruel crime, and the three victims must have suffered unimaginable pain. Imposing the death sentence is unavoidable."