Miyazaki court upholds death penalty for man who killed wife, baby, mother-in-law

Kyodo

The Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for a 24-year-old man convicted of killing his wife, baby and mother-in-law in the city of Miyazaki in March 2010.

Siding with the lay-judge trial decision handed down by the Miyazaki District Court in 2010, presiding Judge Takumi Enomoto said the defendant, Akihiro Okumoto, committed “cold-blooded and atrocious crimes” because of his “self-indulgent and self-centered motives.”

It is the second case in which capital punishment in a lay-judge trial has been appealed, and the second in which the sentence has been upheld.

Defense lawyers had sought life imprisonment, saying the district court reached the wrong conclusion regarding motive. In the appeal, handled only by professional judges, Okumoto was given a psychiatric test in an attempt to establish his motive.

Judge Enomoto said the test shows that Okumoto committed the killings mainly because his mother-in-law had sternly rebuked him, noting that this finding was “not irrational” but adding other factors may have been in play.

The judge said the district court “made no mistakes” in determining Okumoto killed his family because he “wanted to be free and live alone.”

Enomoto acknowledged that the defendant deeply regrets his crimes and has the potential to be rehabilitated, but concluded the district court ruling must stand due to his extreme disregard for the lives of the three and for murdering his wife and son “without due reason.”

One of the lay judges who served in the district court trial said he was hoping the high court would show some leniency because it was painful to be personally involved in a decision to sentence a man to hang.

Okumoto was convicted of strangling and drowning his 5-month-old son, Yuto, in a bathtub at his home on March 1, 2010, killing his wife, Kumiko, 24, and her 50-year-old mother, Takako Ikegami, with a kitchen knife and a hammer, and then burying the boy’s body in a nearby yard.