Thursday, April 10, 2008

Justice Minister, Death Penalty, and Executions

"Four convicted murderers were executed Thursday, bringing the number of convicts hanged to 10 since Kunio Hatoyama became justice minister in August.

""I will continue to (sign execution orders) in a calm and orderly manner," Hatoyama told a news conference.

"There are now 104 inmates on death row whose death sentences have been finalized.

"Three inmates were executed in December and three others in February.

"With the four executions Thursday, the pace of death sentences being carried out under Hatoyama is faster than the rate under his predecessor, Jinen Nagase.

"Nagase signed execution orders for 10 inmates in three installments during his 11 months as justice minister. The 10 executions are a record under one justice minister since Japan resumed capital punishment 1993, after a hiatus of three years and four months.

"Hatoyama, an advocate of speeding up executions, sparked controversy in September by saying a justice minister's authorization should not be needed for carrying out an execution.

"Three of the four men hanged Thursday were executed within four years after their death sentences were finalized.

"During the 10 years through 2007, the average period between a finalized death sentence and the execution was about eight years.

"According to Justice Ministry officials, the four murderers executed Thursday were: Katsuyoshi Nakamoto, 64; Masaharu Nakamura, 61; Masahito Sakamoto, 41; and Kaoru Okashita, 61.

"Nakamoto and Nakamura were hanged at the Osaka Detention House, while Sakamoto and Okashita were put to death at the Tokyo Detention House.

"Nakamoto was convicted of murdering a jewelry dealer and his wife in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, and stealing cash and jewels in 1982.

"Nakamura killed a homeless man and a former co-worker in Shiga Prefecture in 1989 for money and other purposes. He also severed their bodies and dumped their body parts.

"Sakamoto forced a female high school student into his car and strangled her in Gunma Prefecture in 2002. He also phoned her parents demanding ransom money while pretending the girl was still alive.

"Okashita strangled the owner of an apartment building in Tokyo's Suginami Ward in 1989 with an accomplice. Later, he shot the accomplice to death and pretended that his cohort was the one who had murdered the apartment building owner."

By Asahi Shimbun (4/10/2008), Link to article (last visited 4/10/2008)

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