National

Net strangers to hang for slaying

Third in 'crime mate' site gets life in Nagoya woman's '07 murder

NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Nagoya District Court sentenced two men to death and one to life in prison Wednesday for murdering a woman in 2007 by arranging the slaying through an Internet site used to attract “crime mates.”

According to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, it is only the second time the death sentence has been handed to more than one defendant for a single slaying.

The other case happened in 1988, when the Supreme Court finalized the death sentence for two people who killed a hospital president in Kitakyushu.

On Wednesday, 38-year-old newspaper salesman Tsukasa Kanda and Yoshitomo Hori, 33, were given the death penalty, while Kenji Kawagishi, 42, received a life term for turning himself in after the slaying. Hori and Kawagishi were unemployed at the time of the murder.

Prosecutors had demanded the gallows for all three.

The defendants kidnapped company worker Rie Isogai, 31, on a road in Nagoya on the night of Aug. 24, 2007, stole her money, beat her multiple times and strangled her with a rope. They later abandoned her body in a forest in Gifu Prefecture, the court said.

The murder outraged the public, not only because of its cruelty but also because the three defendants became acquainted with each other through a mobile phone Internet site soliciting “crime mates.”

The revelation led the court to make a specific mention about the nature of Internet-linked crimes in its ruling, calling them a “serious threat to society.”

Presiding Judge Hiroko Kondo said the motives of the three left no grounds for leniency because “each of the three committed the crime for the purpose of getting some easy money.”

“They did not listen to the victim’s pleas and carried out the criminal act,” Kondo said. “There was no mercy, and it was a chilling act.”

According to the prosecutors’ closing argument, Kawagishi turned himself in because he was afraid of facing the death penalty. The police found Isogai’s body and arrested Kanda and Hori based on Kawagishi’s account of the murder.

Their counsel sought to avoid the death penalty, arguing the incident was not as heinous as past cases in which defendants received the death penalty for murdering one person.

Prosecutors also referred to the Supreme Court’s 1980s guidelines for applying the death penalty, which takes into consideration such factors as the number of victims and the motive. But they also argued that it is not the definitive standard for applying the death penalty.

Hiroshi Itakura, professor emeritus of law at Nihon University, said Wednesday’s ruling showed that defendants can be handed the death penalty even if there was only one victim, if the crime is deemed to have had a huge social impact.

“It could be a new criteria under the lay judge system” to be introduced in May, he said.

During the court session, the mother of the victim, Fumiko Isogai, 57, cried, especially when the judge read out how her daughter was killed.

“I had been asking for the death penalty for all three . . .,” she said after the ruling.