The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence handed down by lay judges for the first time since the citizen judge system came into being five years ago.

The top court rejected an appeal by 43-year-old Tomohiro Matsubara against the ruling that sentenced him to death for killing a family of three and stealing ¥4.1 million along with three other men in Nagano Prefecture in March 2010.

Lay judges have so far handed down 21 death sentences, including four that became final without any decision by the Supreme Court.

The ruling for Matsubara is the first death sentence handed down by lay judges to become final through a Supreme Court decision.