• Kyodo News


The Supreme Court turned down an appeal Friday by a 44-year-old man who had been sentenced to death for a vehicle and stabbing rampage in 1999 at a train station in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, that killed five people and left 10 others wounded.

The top court’s decision is set to finalize the sentence of Yasuaki Uwabe, who was a truck driver.

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, Uwabe can still file an objection with the top court. But such an objection would be limited to technicalities such as an error in wording, if any, in the decision, and the top court has rarely accepted such an objection.

At issue in the trial has been Uwabe’s mental competency when he ran down seven pedestrians as he drove his rented car into the concourse of JR Shimonoseki Station, and then stabbed eight passengers on the station stairways and platforms on Sept. 29, 1999.

Uwabe had a record of seeing psychiatrists before the incident. He took 120 sleeping pills before going on the rampage, the courts said.

In the ruling handed down by the top court’s 2nd Petty Bench, presiding Justice Iwao Imai brushed aside the argument by Uwabe’s defense that he was insane at the time of the massacre and should be acquitted.

“The defendant, thoroughly prepared and with a firm intent to kill, staged an indiscriminate attack on innocent people at the station,” the justice said. “The act was extremely atrocious and there is no room for leniency.”

During the course of the trial, Uwabe underwent three sets of mental tests that produced mixed results.

In 2002, the Shimonoseki branch of the Yamaguchi District Court sentenced Uwabe to hang, after rejecting one of the test results that showed he was in a state of reduced mental competency. The court determined that he had a personality disorder but was mentally competent enough to be held liable for the crimes.

The Hiroshima High Court in 2005 upheld the death sentence, saying there was no doubt about Uwabe’s mental competency, given he had prepared well for the assaults.

Surviving victims and relatives of the slain have sought about ¥200 million in damages from the defendant, his parents and West Japan Railway Co., which runs Shimonoseki Station.

In March 2006, the Hiroshima High Court ordered Uwabe to pay about ¥170 million to the plaintiffs, up from ¥160 million awarded by the district court in 2004.

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