The mother of Yua Funato was given an eight-year prison term by the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday for parental neglect that led to the death last year of her 5-year-old daughter.
Yuri Funato, 27, was accused of causing the death of Yua in March last year due to sepsis after the girl developed pneumonia. Funato had not fed the girl adequately since around late January that year and took no action despite being aware of her then-husband’s abuse of Yua, according to the indictment.
In the trial, prosecutors said Funato prioritized her relationship with her then-husband and Yua’s 34-year-old stepfather, Yudai Funato, over her daughter’s life. The couple are now divorced.
“She failed to do a parent’s bare minimum of protecting her child by contacting a medical facility or her own parents,” they said, seeking an 11-year prison term.
In late February last year, Yuri Funato did not take Yua to the hospital despite her condition seriously deteriorating after the abuse allegedly inflicted by her stepfather.
Defense lawyers for Funato argued she was powerless to stop her then-husband, as she had been the target of his “relentless psychological abuse,” and had asked that she be given no more than a five-year prison term.
The court acknowledged the psychological abuse Funato suffered at the hands of her former husband but said it “cannot be a factor that would greatly reduce her responsibility.”
“You can easily imagine how deep the suffering, sadness and despair” of Yua was, said presiding Judge Minoru Morishita when handing down the ruling.
Morishita also ruled that the accused had sometimes resisted the instructions of her then-husband, which he said showed she had acted on her own will in abusing the child.
Yudai Funato has also been indicted on charges of assaulting the child and negligence resulting in her death. His trial will start on Oct. 1.
Yuri Funato had previously admitted to parental neglect resulting in Yua’s death, but said she had to obey her husband’s orders to stop her daughter from being harmed.
The girl’s death on March 2 last year in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, attracted nationwide attention and prompted Japan to enact revised laws in June this year banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children. The laws also strengthened the ability of child welfare centers to intervene in cases when abuse is suspected.
Yuri and Yudai Funato married in April 2016. In December the same year, a local child welfare center in Kagawa Prefecture took temporary custody of the girl, and again in 2017, but each time handed her back to the parents.
When the girl visited a hospital for the last time, in January 2018, she weighed only 16.66 kilograms. When her death was confirmed in March the same year, her weight was just 12.2 kg.