The Tokyo High Court’s decision Thursday to uphold Tsutomu Miyazaki’s death sentence was not surprising to many experts who have followed the case.
The focus of the serial child-killer’s trial has been whether he could tell right from wrong when he committed the crimes.
Masaaki Noda, a psychiatrist and professor at Kyoto Women’s University, said he believes Thursday’s ruling, which held Miyazaki fully responsible, is appropriate from a psychiatric perspective.
“The defendant’s behavior seems more like that of a person with a strong personality disorder, rather than psychopathy,” said Noda, who has often been appointed by courts for psychiatric examinations of defendants.
“If personality disorders were to be accounted for in trials, many crime suspects would be immune from criminal responsibility.”
While the Criminal Code only stipulates that a person of “unsound mind” should not be subject to punishment, Noda said it is generally understood in the judicial world that only psychopathy causes such a state of mind.
During Miyazaki’s trial, two reports judging that the defendant suffered from either multiple-personality syndrome or schizophrenia and thus could not be held fully responsible for his crimes, were presented by separate groups of court-appointed psychiatrists. Noda, however, said he believes that the reports misjudged Miyazaki’s personality disorder, which was exacerbated by stress incurred by the long-term detention at the time he was questioned.
“But before the argument of which report is more accurate, it should be understood that what determines whether a suspect can be held responsible or not is the law, which is ultimately a form of social common sense,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shinobu Yoshioka, a journalist who wrote a book on Miyazaki’s trial last year, said that while capital punishment was inevitable considering the gravity of the crimes, he still believes the courts failed to handle the case properly by not fully investigating the defendant’s mental state and social background.
“Pressured by public sentiment, the courts seem to have decided to sentence him to death even before the trial opened, while dismissing some evidence regarding Miyazaki’s mental state, which, for them, only made the trial procedure more complex,” he said. As an example of such evidence, Yoshioka pointed to Miyazaki’s lower court testimony that he drank the blood of one of his victims and ate her arm as well as the the cremated bones of his late grandfather in the belief that it would bring the man back to life. The lower court rejected this testimony.
“It is the responsibility of judicial authorities not only to punish criminals but to present lessons to society through thorough examination of the crimes,” he said.
“By judging Miyazaki a sane sex-criminal, the court failed to show us possible social woes that might have caused his crimes and the insights into the psychology of today’s people.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.