NAGASAKI – The 12-year-old junior high school student who has confessed to kidnapping and murdering a 4-year-old boy here last week told his lawyers Friday that he was not himself at the time of the crime.
One of the lawyers, speaking at a news conference, indicated they may request a psychiatric examination.
The student was placed under police custody on Wednesday and was later turned over to the Nagasaki Family Court after admitting to the murder of Shun Tanemoto on July 1.
Two of the three lawyers assigned to the case met the boy at a local juvenile correctional facility Friday afternoon. They are Kuniyoshi Shibata and Masayuki Morinaga.
“I was not myself,” one of the two lawyers quoted the boy as saying while explaining his own psychological condition at the time of the murder.
Under the Penal Code, the boy cannot be held criminally responsible because he is under 14.
According to police investigations, the boy allegedly kidnapped Tanemoto at an electric appliance shop in Nagasaki on the evening of July 1. He is believed to have pushed the victim off the roof of a parking garage in central Nagasaki later that night.
Tanemoto’s bloodied and naked body was found the next morning on the ground next to the eight-story parking garage.
The lawyer told a news conference that the boy appeared to be repentant of his action, saying the boy realizes he has terminated the victim’s life.
In describing his impression of the boy, the lawyer said, “He looks like a boy to whom a small child would feel affection. He did not seem to have premeditated the crime.”
Caution on age change
Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said Friday she does not see any need to amend the Juvenile Law so children younger than 14 can be criminally prosecuted.
Her comments follow the apprehension earlier this week of a 12-year-old boy in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a 4-year-old boy in Nagasaki last week.
At a news conference after Friday’s regular Cabinet meeting, Moriyama said she told other Cabinet members that she is cautious about lowering the minimum age because it was lowered just three years ago, from 16 to 14.
She told her colleagues that she believes the current minimum age is appropriate when compared with international standards.
Under current law, those committing crimes before turning 14 will be sent to family courts without criminal persecution.
Rather than change the current juvenile criminal procedure, efforts should be made to prevent serious juvenile crimes by focusing on education, family and child welfare policies, Moriyama said.
Separately, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the government has no immediate plans to lower the minimum age at which juveniles are subject to criminal charges.
During the morning Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ordered his ministers to boost measures to prevent juvenile crimes, according to Fukuda.
Referring to the Nagasaki case, Koizumi said the issue of how to prevent a reoccurrence should not be treated only as a matter of crime prevention.
Society as a whole — not only police officers, but also families, schools and neighborhoods — should improve the environment in which children are raised, Koizumi was quoted as saying.
Callers target school
NAGASAKI (Kyodo) The junior high school in Nagasaki that was attended by the 12-year-old boy suspected of kidnapping and killing a 4-year-old has been flooded with telephone calls and faxes.
Messages have also poured into the school’s e-mail system, prompting the Nagasaki education board to shut down the school’s Web site.
Officials said the school started getting phone calls Wednesday afternoon, soon after news flashes that the first-year student had been taken into custody.
According to the vice principal, the school received more than 100 phone calls and three faxes Wednesday and Thursday. Half of the callers hung up without saying anything, some made threats and others offered support, the vice principal said.