Life term upheld for Hiroshima girl’s killer

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) The Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday upheld a life sentence for a man convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a 7-year-old girl in the city of Hiroshima, rejecting the prosecution’s demand that he be given the death penalty.

Presiding Judge Takashi Takeda said the life term stands for Peruvian Jose Manuel Torres Yagi, 38, for the molestation and strangling of Airi Kinoshita, a student in the first grade, on Nov. 22, 2005. He was also convicted of leaving the corpse in a cardboard box in a vacant lot.

The focal point in the retrial was whether Torres would be sentenced to hang, which is a rarity in murder cases involving one victim, particularly, according to judicial experts, if the defendant has never killed before or had previous pecuniary motives.

In 2004, newspaper deliveryman Kaoru Kobayashi was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old girl in Nara Prefecture. The case gained notoriety because he had threatened to stalk and kill the girl’s sister and had boasted about his deeds. He also had a previous record of child molestation. He withdrew his appeal.

In July 2006, the Hiroshima District Court sentenced Torres to life in prison, noting he had only killed once and had no criminal record. The court examined prosecution evidence for five straight days and reached the decision 50 days after the trial started.

Both Torres and prosecutors appealed, and the Hiroshima High Court told the lower court in 2008 to retry the case. Last October, the Supreme Court repealed that order and told the high court to retry the case.

During the retrial, the prosecutors again sought the death penalty, presenting records of sex crimes committed by Torres in Peru and saying he was unlikely to be rehabilitated.