Inmate serving life sentence, father of victim exchanging letters


November 30, 2008

An inmate serving a life sentence for killing a couple while they were on a date in Nagoya in 1988 has been exchanging letters with the father of the female victim for more than three years, according to a source familiar with the matter. It is unusual for an offender and a bereaved family member of the victim in a murder case to exchange letters, and serves as an apparent example of so-called ‘‘restorative justice.’’

The inmate, now 40, was sentenced to death in a 1989 ruling by the Nagoya District Court for the murder he committed when he was 19 years old. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in a 1996 ruling by the Nagoya High Court and his sentence was finalized. The source said the inmate began to write letters to the believed families of the two victims to apologize after the Nagoya District Court ruling.

After being put in prison in the city of Okayama, western Japan, in 1997, the inmate sent apology letters with money he gained from prison work.

The father of the female victim first replied to the inmate in March 2005 to thank him for sending the money.

‘‘I was very surprised and thankful,’’ the inmate said of the reply in a letter to the source. ‘‘I want to continue to apologize as long as I live.’’

In a letter sent by the father to the inmate at the end of June 2006, the father said, ‘‘I think it’s very hard but I hope you will face up to your sin. Please take care of yourself,’’ according to the source.

The father told Kyodo News, ‘‘I’ll never forgive him and have never felt a sense of calmness although he wrote letters expressing remorse many, many times. As time passes, however, I have thought I would treat him as a human being, not as an inmate.’’