Friday, July 22, 2011

Japan Lets Murderer "Off" Easy?

Just a short - and late - comment on the Lindsay Hawker case that has been motivated by some recent remarks made by readers and some people I have met in Tokyo recently.

First up, the details of the court decision from AP:

CHIBA, Japan, July 21 (Kyodo)—A court sentenced Tatsuya Ichihashi to life imprisonment Thursday over the death of British woman Lindsay Hawker in 2007.

Public prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment with hard labor for Ichihashi, 32, who was charged with raping and murdering the 22-year- old English conversation teacher at his apartment.

Ichihashi has denied murdering her at his apartment in Chiba, east of Tokyo, around March 25, 2007, but has admitted he caused her death. He apologized to Lindsey's family in court for what he did.

In Japan, life imprisonment -- technically termed imprisonment without a fixed period -- is the second-heaviest criminal punishment. It does not necessarily mean the inmate will be incarcerated for the rest of his life. Under the Penal Code, the inmate may be given parole after serving a minimum of 10 years.

The defense team for Ichihashi argued his actions constituted the lesser crime of injury resulting in death and that he had accidentally suffocated Hawker in an attempt to stop her from crying out for help.

The victim's parents, Bill and Julia Hawker, have asked for the death penalty for Ichihashi.

That this poor woman's parents should want the death penalty is understandable. They are filled with emotions. Highly emotional states are usually not conducive to calm, critical analysis of a situation. I feel so sorry for this poor woman, Lindsay, and her parents and pray that they may someday find some peace and solace between themselves and their god.

Besides the immediate family, this case seems to have brought out lots of emotions from unrelated people. That this case involves a Japanese man and a foreign women seems to have touched a button with many people... Especially people from the UK.

But let's look at this logically. Justice and the law should be blind. That means race, creed or color have no place in a civilized society's courtroom. In this case, simply put, a man killed a woman. 

In the UK and Wales, the maximum penalty for manslaughter is life in prison. In the UK and Wales, the maximum penalty for premeditated murder is life in prison. Tatsuya Ichihashi was given life in prison. Life in prison is the maximum penalty for manslaughter in Japan. 

Japan still has the death penalty but this is reserved for premeditated murders and mass murder.

In 95% of all cases the law (in most countries) is pretty much logical. The death penalty is reserved for particularly heinous cases of pre-meditated murder. That is, the prosecution must prove that the murderer had a pre-conceived plan to murder this individual and carried out that plan.

It is obvious that in the case of Lindsay Hawker and Tatsuya Ichihashi, there was no such plan by Ichihashi. It seems sufficently proven that there was a plan to drug and rape this poor woman... And that plan went awfully wrong.... But a plan to rape is not a death penalty level crime in civilized countries. (Whether it should be or not, is not for me to decide. Currently, it is not).

There seems to be a lot of people from the west who think that Tatsuya Ichihashi should have gotten the death penalty for killing Lindsay Hawker. In fact, since this case first began, and Ichihashi was first arrested, I'd say 100% of all foreigners I know and have spoken to about this think he deserves the death penalty.

There's no way he deserves the death penalty for this case.

On one level, as pointed out by reader, Murasaki Shikibu, people from Europe and the UK media condemn Japan for being such a nation of savages that they still have a death penalty, but on the other hand, for this particular case, they want the death penalty. A massive incoherent inconsistency.

She writes about British media:

"....who want the death penalty if a Japanese citizen has murdered a British citizen (and appear to believe that a life imprisonment sentence is way too lenient), but have this habit of condemning the Japanese for human rights infringements periodically and keep telling Japan they are barbaric for still having the death penalty."

For full disclosure, I am against the death penalty in any form and for any crime. Period. That is because I come from a country that is famous for sending people to death, especially so-called "colored people," only to find out later that they executed an innocent person. The death penalty is final and humans are known to err. This is why I am against the death penalty. But my being against the death penalty has nothing to do with my thinking that there is no way that Ichihashi should be given the death penalty in this case.

These people who think he should be given the death penalty are not interested in justice, in my opinion, they are interested in revenge. The Japanese judicial system worked well in this case and life in prison is what Ichihashi deserves.

It has been proven in a court of law that Ichihashi did not murder Lindsay Hawker in a premeditated manner. There was no preconceived plan to do so. He did plan to rape her. 

As I said, that plan went very wrong and he wound up suffocating her in a panic when she began to scream. That he mutilated her body after death is another problem, but mutilating a dead body is also not grounds for the death penalty. 

Ichihashi is a very sick man. Hopefully he will get some help in prison while doing heavy manual labor. Hopefully he will stay in prison doing so for the rest of his life.

In no way is it conceivable that Ichihashi should have been given the death penalty. The law is pretty clear on this case. Ichihashi was given the full penalty under the law of Japan. 

Wishing for more than that is nothing more than revenge. Revenge is savagery.  


Kevin Riley said...


What you failed to mention is the fact that life imprisonment in a Japanese prison is not the same as life imprisonment in a UK or US prison. Prisoners don't have all the ridiculous freedoms afforded prisoners in Western countries. Here, they are treated like prisoners.

Anonymous said...

I think that the judge got it right. He said that the accused was still young and that there was still some small hope for him to fully repent and become rehabilitated and that therefore the death penalty was not appropriate here (alongside the fact that he did not premeditate her death)

I am from the UK. It is just such a tragedy that anyone had to go through this at all and my heart goes out to both Lindsay's family and the perpetrator's family. Sadly, there are no winners in this one.

Anonymous said...

In passing the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, the UK essentially abolished the death penalty in, what I consider to be, an important and correct step towards achieving a more human penal system. This is a step of which the UK can and should be proud.

To not condone the taking of life in ones own judicial system, yet condone and/or demand it in that of another country, smacks too much of hypocrisy.

Tim (from the UK)

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