Errors may happen, albeit unwelcome, in Baseball, but having a court decision scrapped and called an ‘error’ is more unusual. The Tokyo High Court just did that when it announced Tuesday that a death sentence of a man, who was declared guilty of murder in 2009, has been abated to life imprisonment.
Tatsumi Tateyama was charged of robbery and murder in 2009 and was sentenced with capital punishment. The victim was Yukari Ogino, a 21-year old student of Chiba University. In October that year, Ogino had just arrived in her apartment in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture when Tateyama came to rob her. He also threatened the student with a knife and ended up killing her. According to presiding Judge Hitoshi Murase, Tateyama “did not have any intent to kill when he demanded money and valuables, while circumstances just before the killing and his motive remain unclear.” The judge was also referring to the defendant’s criminal history – assault, rape, and robbery – that served as basis of the lay judges and professional judges who oversaw Tateyama’s robbery-murder case at the Chiba District Court.
“There has been a tendency in precedents not to elect the death sentence when there was only one victim killed in a robbery-murder, and it was not premeditated,” Murase said. Despite the defendant’s criminal record, the presiding judge claimed that such would not be taken into account to warrant capital punishment. “While it was a result deliberated on by lay and professional judges, [the sentence] has to be overturned so long as the penalty chosen was an error.”
The scrapped death penalty is not the first sentence that a high court has overturned. Back in June, the Tokyo High Court, with Judge Murase presiding once again, also abrogated the death penalty of a 62-year old man convicted of robbery and murder.