OSAKA — The Osaka District Court ordered the Tokyo-based publisher Shinchosha to pay 2.5 million yen in damages Wednesday to a 20-year-old man indicted for a murder he allegedly committed as a minor, for carrying his name and photo in one of its publications.
The man is accused of stabbing to death a 5-year-old girl and seriously injuring her mother and a high school girl in January last year. The man was 19 years old at the time of attack.
The publisher’s monthly magazine, Shincho 45, revealed the man’s name and photo in its March 1998 issue. The Juvenile Law states that names of apprehended criminals and suspects under 20 must be withheld by the press.
The man demanded 22 million yen in damages.
Although the publisher claimed that withholding his name and photo would conceal the essence of his crime, Judge Michiyo Miyokawa ruled that the name and photo were not necessary to reveal the real nature of the attack.
The judge also said the publisher neglected the spirit of the Juvenile Law to protect minors and repeatedly violated it despite warnings from judicial authorities. “What the defendant did was extremely vicious,” according to the ruling.
Lawyers for the man said that although the court did not agree with their claim that the publisher should be ordered to pay much more in damages, Wednesday’s ruling was acceptable because it clearly found the magazine’s action illegal.
The magazine’s editor in chief, Takashi Ishii, said the ruling went against common sense because compensation was demanded by a man who allegedly killed a young girl. The court’s decision to award money to such a man should not be accepted, Ishii said, adding that the publisher plans to appeal.
“The ruling does not state when it is OK to publish names and photos of criminals,” he said. “We think it is up to us as journalists to decide whether to carry minors’ real names and photos as the law does not set forth any penalties for violators. We will continue to do so until the case is finally decided.”
On the morning of Jan. 8, 1998, the youth allegedly fatally stabbed 5-year-old Kana Okuni and her mother, Yoshimi, 35, as well as Ai Kyakuno, a 15-year-old high school student, in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture.
Kana Okuni was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital while the other two were seriously wounded. The teen was arrested about 30 minutes after the attack.
In the course of the criminal trial, he owned up to all the charges, but his lawyers claimed their client could not be held liable due to temporary insanity caused by inhaling paint thinner the night before the assault.
The criminal trial is continuing with a psychiatric test conducted on the man.
Knowing the act would violate the Juvenile Law, Shincho 45 carried a 16-page story on the man in its March edition last year, giving an account of his family background, showing his junior high school graduation photograph and revealing his name.
About 100,000 copies of the issue were sold.
At the end of the story, the magazine editors noted that they revealed the youth’s name and photo because the crime was evil, that anonymity conceals the essence of the crime while the youth would become 20 in six months (after the attack) and that the Juvenile Law, which came into effect in 1949, is not applicable to reality.
Having been labeled “the murderer of a kindergartner,” the article made it difficult for the man to return to a normal life in the future, the man’s lawyers said, branding Shincho 45 as sensationalist journalism.