Two double-killers sent to gallows

First hangings ordered by new justice minister bring toll to 15 for year


Two convicted double-killers were hanged Tuesday, bringing the execution toll to an unusually high 15 for the year.

The executions were the first ordered by Justice Minister Eisuke Mori since he assumed the post Sept. 24 when Prime Minister Taro Aso formed his Cabinet.

Mori disclosed the names of the prisoners, a practice started by Kunio Hatoyama when he was justice minister.

Michitoshi Kuma, 70, was convicted of kidnapping and strangling two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, in February 1992. He was hanged at the Fukuoka Detention Center.

His death sentence was finalized two years ago.

Throughout his trial and appeals, Kuma maintained his innocence, saying the evidence used against him was fabricated. His support group revealed that he had planned to request a retrial in the near future.

Masahiro Takashio, 55, was convicted of robbing and fatally stabbing a 55-year-old woman and her 83-year-old mother during a home invasion in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in March 2004. Takashio knew the woman’s father, who lived with the victims.

He was hanged at the Sendai Detention Center.

His death sentence was finalized 22 months ago.

There were nine hangings in 2007, while 2006 saw four. Mori’s immediate predecessor, Okiharu Yasuoka, gave the go-ahead for three executions in October even though he held the office for only about a month.