The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death penalty for Tsutomu Miyazaki in the brutal late-1980s serial killings of four girls in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture that stunned the nation.
The focus of the case was whether Miyazaki, 43, was mentally competent at the time of the crimes. He was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in April 1997 and the Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling in June 2001.
Presiding Justice Tokiyasu Fujita rejected the defense argument that Miyazaki was mentally incompetent at the time of the crimes. He ruled that although Miyazaki has an extreme character disorder, it is not one that absolves him of criminal responsibility.
Miyazaki killed the four girls “to satisfy his own sexual desire and appetite to own videotapes of corpses,” said Fujita of the top court’s No. 3 petty bench, describing the motivation as “selfish and cruel” and allowing no room for commutation.
The four petty bench justices were unanimous in rejecting Miyazaki’s appeal.
Miyazaki’s sentence will be final in 10 days. During this period, his lawyers can file a complaint asking the top court to revise its ruling, but such a complaint has never been accepted. Miyazaki’s lawyers said they may seek a retrial.
Miyazaki was arrested in July 1989 in a separate abduction attempt, and later that year admitted kidnapping and killing the four girls aged between 4 and 7. His trial began in March 1990.
Psychiatric tests were conducted twice during the district court trial to determine if he could he held criminally liable for the murders.
The first concluded that he had a personality disorder but not a mental disorder, and that he was responsible for his acts. The second concluded he did have a mental disorder and was not able to take criminal responsibility.
Both results were submitted to the district court, and the court adopted the first result and sentenced him to death.
Miyazaki’s defense team appealed the ruling, arguing before the high court he was mentally incompetent to some extent and that another psychiatric exam should be conducted.
But the high court rejected the argument and held Miyazaki liable for the crimes, which spanned a 10-month period starting in 1988.
During a Supreme Court session, the defense team again argued that it was necessary to conduct a fresh psychiatric exam on Miyazaki and that the case should be retried at the high court.
The Penal Code stipulates penalties may be reduced for acts committed by someone with a mental disorder.
In all four murders, Miyazaki took the girls into his car, strangled them and in one case dismembered the body and in another incinerated the corpse.
He sent a letter in February 1989 to the family of one of his victims and to a newspaper, claiming responsibility for the murder. The letters bore the female pseudonym Yuko Imada. He also sent that girl’s remains to her family.
Miyazaki, who was helping in his father’s printing business, told the district court in March 1990 that he committed the crimes in “a lasting dream” and that “a rat person” appeared at the time.
He also said he burned and ate one victim’s wrists.
On Tuesday morning, more than 230 people waited in line outside the Supreme Court for tickets to observe the session that finalized his sentence.
Yasue Tajima, 27, an office worker in Toda, Saitama Prefecture, said, “I want to see its outcome with my own eyes.”