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Court cuts lay judges’ tough sentence on man with Asperger’s syndrome

Kyodo

The Osaka High Court on Tuesday reduced a 20-year prison term for a murderer with Asperger’s syndrome imposed by citizen judges that was four years longer than prosecutors sought.

Citing society’s lack of means to handle people with such developmental disorders, the high court quashed the decision by the Osaka District Court and gave 14 years to Kazuhiro Ohigashi, 42 — two years less than the prosecution’s request — for slashing his 46-year-old sister to death with a knife in July 2011 at their home in Hirano Ward, Osaka.

Though noting the court had made clear it was wrong to impose such a heavy penalty on someone with such a disorder, lawyers for the defendant expressed dissatisfaction with the length of the sentence.

Ohigashi developed an unreasonable grudge against his sister, blaming her for the fact that he had led a withdrawn life at home for around 30 years, the court said.

In the lower court ruling last July, a panel of lay and professional judges concluded that the defendant had not sufficiently repented and that society lacks the means and institutions to deal with Asperger’s syndrome.

The panel said given a strong likelihood of recidivism, “keeping him imprisoned over the long term to make him repent serves the purpose of maintaining social order.”

At the high court, presiding Judge Shoichi Matsuo said the lower court “did not accurately evaluate the impact of Asperger’s syndrome on the background to the case and the motive.”

The defendant “could not fully show remorse in part because of the syndrome,” the judge said.

Tamano Tsujikawa, chief attorney for the defendant, told reporters in Osaka, “It is wrong to think of keeping a person in jail long just because he has a disorder.”