OSAKA – A 22-year-old unemployed man was sentenced Tuesday to death for murdering a university student and another man by burying them alive.
Ryuji Kobayashi admitted to assaulting and killing the two but denied allegations he robbed them as well.
Presiding Judge Makoto Wada of the Osaka District Court denounced the crime by Kobayashi and his accomplices as “heartless and merciless” and told the accused, “You have to take responsibility.”
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty.
According to the ruling, Kobayashi, along with several of his friends, assaulted university student Shoji Fujimoto, 21, and Tetsuya Iwagami, a 21-year-old unemployed man, last June. The two victims ran afoul of Kobayashi’s childhood friend Yuki Sato over a woman. Sato is also being tried for murder in the case.
Kobayashi and the others beat the two with golf clubs and other weapons, and then killed them by burying them alive at a waste disposable site in the city of Okayama. They also robbed the victims of about 100,000 yen.
A total of eight people were indicted over the murders. Of these, a 17-year-old unemployed man has been given 15 years in prison.
Judge Wada condemned Kobayashi for “treating the victims as if they were objects and burying them alive,” and said his acts “can never been forgiven as a human being.”
Kobayashi’s lawyers had argued that he did not have complete command of the people who assaulted and killed the victims. But Wada said that were it not for Kobayashi “the victims would not have been murdered,” ruling he bears a grave responsibility for taking a leading role in carrying out the murders.
Wada said the court “acknowledges that the crime stemmed from (Kobayashi’s) immature personality and there is a possibility of rehabilitation. But a harsh stance needs to be taken on the unforgivable crime of disdaining human lives, and to prevent crimes from recurring.”
After the ruling, a lawyer for Kobayashi said, “I cannot accept the fact that the death penalty was issued while it was acknowledged that there is a possibility for rehabilitation.”
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