National

Man gets death for murdering suicidal trio

Kyodo

The Osaka District Court sentenced a man to death Wednesday for killing three people he got to know through a Web site for would-be suicides in 2005.

In handing down the sentence on Hiroshi Maeue, 38, presiding Judge Kazuo Mizushima pointed out the cruelty of the serial killings and the unlikelihood that he could be rehabilitated.

Maeue’s counsel appealed the ruling.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty, insisting he could pose the threat of a repeat offender because he cannot control his sexual urges triggered by seeing a person being strangled and suffering.

The court said Maeue persuaded a 14-year-old junior high school student to join him in a suicide pact using charcoal stoves to produce deadly carbon monoxide, and then suffocated the victim near a mountain in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, in May 2005.

He also killed a 25-year-old woman and a 21-year-old male university student in February and June the same year in a similar way and dumped their corpses.

“It’s brutal, heartless, devilish, and his sexual propensity is deep-rooted and difficult to ameliorate,” the judge said.

In December, the court decided to adopt as evidence a mental diagnosis stating the defendant’s mental competence was undiminished at the time of the murders.

A mental-health expert who made the diagnosis also testified at the court that Maeue was mentally competent.

Maeue pleaded guilty to the three murders and when the judge asked him whether he would commit such crimes again if released, he said, “I have worries.”

The prosecutors accused Maeue of committing “lust murder.” His defense counsel sought to avoid the death penalty.

Last appeal fails

Kyodo News

The Supreme Court on Tuesday finalized the death penalty for a taxi driver who burned five people to death during a May 2001 robbery at a branch of consumer lender Takefuji Corp. in Aomori Prefecture.

The finalized ruling makes defendant Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 48, the 102nd death-row inmate in Japan.

Kobayashi was convicted of demanding money and scattering gasoline in the Takefuji branch in Hirosaki at around 10:50 a.m. on May 8, 2001. He set fire to the premises after a branch manager refused to give him the money, killing five employees and injuring the manager and three others.

At the trial, Kobayashi denied he intended to kill, claiming, “I didn’t mean to kill them and thought the five had run away before I committed arson.”

The Aomori District Court sentenced him to death in February 2003, determining his “willful negligence” resulted in the death of the employees on the grounds that he continued to demand cash from various people even after the employees ran into another room and he was left alone with the branch manager.

Kobayashi appealed, but the Sendai High Court upheld the decision in February 2004.

“We believe that the (top) court made a proper and impartial legal judgment,” a Takefuji representative said.