21-year-old man given death penalty for 2021 murder, arson in Japan

A Japanese court sentenced a 21-year-old man to death on Thursday for the 2021 murder of two and arson, in the first case of capital punishment being given to an offender who was a minor at the time of the crime but whose name has been revealed under a 2022 revision of the Juveniles Law.

The defendant, Yuki Endo, was 19 at the time of the attack in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, in central Japan. The law change in April 2022 allows media to reveal the identities of 18- and 19-year-old offenders once they are indicted.The media was previously prohibited from reporting names, ages, occupations, residences and appearances or publishing photographs of minors under 20

In handing down the ruling at Kofu District Court, Presiding Judge Jun Mikami recognized Endo’s full criminal liability and said his age “should not be a reason to avoid the death penalty.”

Endo stabbed the 55-year-old father and 50-year-old mother of a female acquaintance at their home in Kofu on Oct. 12, 2021, causing them to bleed to death, according to the ruling.

He also injured the acquaintance’s younger sister and set fire to the house, the ruling said. The acquaintance was not injured.

Under Japan’s Penal Code, arson of a dwelling in which a person is present can also be punished by death.

In the trial, Endo said he committed the crimes as the acquaintance, who attended the same high school, refused to go on a date with him, which made him feel “desperate and angry.” He also said he was discontent with his relationship with his parents.

Throughout the trial, he offered no apologies for his acts and denied any intention to appeal the ruling, saying he did not want to return to normal life.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, saying the defendant was fully accountable in light of his deliberateness and planning of the criminal acts.

They said the acquaintance and her younger sister suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The acquaintance took part in the trial through a video link but said she was “too afraid” to speak of her feelings in front of Endo.

In her statement read out by the prosecutors, she said, “The culprit will come to kill me if he has the chance to go outside. I want him to be never allowed outside, and I want a guarantee that he will not.”

The defense team had called for a lighter sentence, arguing the defendant had a diminished capacity at the time of the attack.

Since 1983, when the Supreme Court set its standard for giving the death penalty, there have been seven cases in which the death penalty has been finalized for offenders who committed a crime as a minor.

The so-called Nagayama standard — which takes into account factors such as the number of victims, brutality and social impact of the crime — has been used for decades in determining whether to apply the death sentence.

Aside from allowing the media to reveal the names of 18- and 19-year-old offenders, the revised Juveniles Law implemented in April 2022 also expanded the range of crimes in which such offenders are referred to prosecutors from family courts and tried as adults.

The revision came in tandem with Japan lowering the age of adulthood from 20 to 18 by revising the Civil Code, opening up new freedoms and responsibilities for 18- and 19-year-olds.