The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court-imposed life prison term for a man convicted of murdering the wife of a Yamaichi Securities Co. legal adviser in 1997.

Hisashi Nishida

Presiding Judge Yoshimasa Kawabe upheld the sentence for 67-year-old Hisashi Nishida for the stabbing death of Manae Okamura, 63, wife of 72-year-old lawyer Isao Okamura, a former vice chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

Nishida was sentenced to life by the Tokyo District Court in September 1999. Prosecutors had appealed to the high court, seeking capital punishment, and Nishida also appealed, seeking a lighter sentence.

In their appeal, prosecutors argued that the crime was committed out of “selfish resentment,” while lawyers for Nishida said he had not intended to kill the lawyer or his wife and that the life sentence is too heavy because the accused has shown remorse.

According to the court, Nishida had demanded that the failed Yamaichi Securities make up for his stock trading losses through the brokerage since May 1991. His demand was rejected by the company through Okamura’s office.

Nishida was convicted of attempting to extort money from Yamaichi in a separate case and served a prison term for that until February 1996.

Upon his release, he planned to kill the lawyer after learning Yamaichi Securities had paid a large sum of money to a “sokaiya” corporate extortionist group while refusing to reimburse him, the court found.

When Nishida went to the Okamuras’ home in Koganei, on Oct. 10, 1997, the lawyer was not there. Nishida stabbed the lawyer’s wife to death to silence her when she screamed, the court said.

“It is possible that the defendant will be released on parole after 10 years. My wife, who was killed, will never come back,” Okamura told reporters. “It is unjust.”

Okamura also said that the ruling will adversely affect the activities of lawyers.

Okamura severely criticized the judge for ruling that capital punishment would be too severe partly because there was only one victim.

“The judge should know that me and my other family members have been suffering considerably,” he said, indicating they are also victims.

In January 2000, Okamura set up a group calling on authorities to better protect crime victims’ rights, which he believes are less protected than those of offenders.

As part of the group’s campaign, Okamura asked the Tokyo High Court to allow him to carry a photo of his wife during the first appeal hearing last September.

The court allowed it after deliberations, setting a precedent. Such an act by a next of kin had been previously banned by courts “because it would affect the defendants.”

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