The Supreme Court on Thursday reduced the prison sentence of a couple convicted of fatally abusing their 1-year-old daughter in 2010, altering the term handed down at a lay judge trial.
The top court’s First Petty Bench, presided over by Judge Yu Shiraki, said: “Sentences given at lay judge trials should be respected, but their fairness compared with the results of other trials should be maintained.”
The unanimous decision by the five judges on the bench shortened the 15-year sentences handed to Akira Kishimoto, 31, and his wife, Miki, 32, for inflicting injury resulting in death, to 10 years for Kishimoto and eight for his wife.
The lower court sentences were 1.5 times longer than those sought by the prosecution.
The couple from Neyagawa in Osaka physically abused their third daughter on numerous occasions. A slap to the daughter’s head in January 2010 caused an acute subdural hematoma. She died in the following March.
Noting that the assault was on the borderline between murder and bodily harm resulting in death, the Osaka District Court said giving child abusers harsh sentences was in line with current public opinion. The Osaka High Court consequently dismissed their appeals.
The lay judge system, which uses a combination of professional judges and lay judges to rule on serious crimes, was launched in 2009.
For cases dealing in eight major crimes, such as murder and injury resulting in death, lay judges handed down 43 sentences through the end of March that were severer than recommended, accounting for about one percent of the total.
In the case of professional judges, only two such cases were found between April 2008 and the end of March, accounting for about 0.1 percent, according to the Supreme Court.