• Kyodo

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down an appeal by seven former students who were ordered to pay 57.6 million yen in damages to the parents of another student who was bullied to death in 1993 in Yamagata Prefecture.

The decision upholds last year’s ruling by the Sendai High Court that the 13-year-old boy’s death was caused by an assault by the seven, who were then 12 to 14 years old.

The top court’s decision finalizes a 12-year-old case that drew completely different verdicts from lower courts, both criminal and civil, which either found all seven not guilty or that they were accountable for the death.

The seven former students at Meirin Junior High School in Shinjo, Yamagata Prefecture, argued that their statements to police admitting the assault were coerced and thus legally inadmissible as evidence.

But Justice Toyozo Ueda, who presided over the case on the third petty bench of the Supreme Court, said such an argument does not warrant the acceptance of an appeal.

In January 1993, Yuhei Kodama, then 13, suffocated after being rolled up in a mattress in the school gymnasium.

Five days later, the seven students were arrested for allegedly injuring and confining Kodama and causing his death. All seven admitted to the charges during criminal investigations but later recanted.

While the youngest of the seven, then aged 12, accepted administrative disciplinary action, the remaining six were tried in juvenile court. Three were found guilty and the other three were acquitted for having valid alibis.

The three found guilty appealed to the Sendai High Court, which in turn acknowledged the involvement of all seven in the bullying death, and rejected the appeal.

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