A father who for two years put up with his son’s violent outbursts was given a three-year prison term on Friday for killing the 14-year-old with a baseball bat while he slept.
The Tokyo District Court ruled that Takeki Kagawa, a 53-year-old retired public official, suffered heavily for two years due to his son’s violent behavior at home, but he should still have tried all possible measures — including having his son committed to a hospital — to avoid “the tragic ending.”
“(Kagawa) must have suffered to a tremendous degree, facing his son’s violence almost all by himself,” presiding Judge Fumihiro Abe said. “But the victim had the potential to recover, considering his young age. Kagawa, therefore, should have made other efforts, though not easy, as a father who truly supports his son.”
Kagawa, who pleaded guilty and asked for no leniency, listened gravely with his brows knitted, slightly nodding as the judge handed down the decision.
According to the court, the boy physically abused the family, beginning with Kagawa’s wife, in November 1994, a few months after entering junior high school. Kagawa and his wife read up on the issue and consulted specialists, then attempted to cope with the situation by tolerating the son’s violence and acquiescing to his demands.
Nevertheless, the situation worsened, prompting Kagawa’s daughter to move out of the family home in December 1995 and his wife in June 1996, the court was told. After that, the boy reportedly became even more arrogant and violent. Kagawa felt pressed to confront the situation himself.
Out of fear his son would kill him or he might have to kill his son, Kagawa purchased a metal baseball bat, a pair of gloves and a rope the following September, the ruling said.
On Nov. 6, 1996, a day after reportedly suffering a series of beatings at the hands of his son, Kagawa used the bat to bludgeon the boy and choked him with the rope while the youth was sleeping at their home in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.
Prosecutors on Feb. 3 demanded a five-year prison term, calling the murder premeditated and atrocious, but noting the suffering Kagawa had undergone at the hands of his son. The defense claimed in its final statement on Feb. 20 that Kagawa was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the incident and his judgment was not clear.
“Suffering from a feeling of despair under such a long period of violence and a slave-like relationship with his son, (Kagawa) degraded to a different ethical level,” they said.
In response to the claim, the court ruled that Kagawa’s action was premeditated as evidenced by his purchase of the murder weapons, and his vivid memories of the event and following responsible action indicate he did not “lose himself.”
The ruling also said that no obvious shortcoming was apparent in the way Kagawa raised his son. “It is possible that a normal individual, if put under the same circumstances, might have acted in the same manner (as Kagawa),” the presiding judge said.
“The court seemed to have taken into account many parts of our claims,” defense team chief Takako Sueyoshi said after hearing the decision. “But it failed to show that he could not solve the situation by himself alone.”
Sueyoshi also pointed out that the reasons behind the boy’s violent behavior were not probed during the trial, pointing out possible social factors, such as the media and schools.
During the trial, which vividly portrayed the suffering Kagawa and his family went through, the father said he repeatedly asked himself what he did wrong in raising his son and what could have been done to remedy the situation.
A Tokyo University graduate, Kagawa worked for a publishing company dealing with issues on education and people with disabilities. He later became a case worker supporting alcoholics.
Murders involving violent sons first appalled the nation when a 47-year-old father strangled his son, a student at a prestigious Tokyo high school in October 1977.
Several similar cases have taken place since then.
In a recent similar court decision, a man who fatally stabbed his allegedly violent 24-year-old son at their home in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward was also sentenced to three years in prison. Prosecutors had demanded a five-year term for the April 1994 murder.
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