A male person in his 40s with developmental impairment was ruled with a severe sentence late July at the Osaka District Court with presence of lay judges. He had killed his sister, and the court gave a severe sentence exceeding the prosecutor's demand on the ground that 'the society is not ready to accept the mentally impaired defendant and he may repeat crimes'. An analysis is needed to point out problems arising from the judgment.
SENTENCE IS WRONG AND DANGEROUS
A younger brother (42) with psychological illness killed sister (46 years old then) with a kitchen knife in Osaka City in July last year. The court decision demanded 20 years in prison with hard labor for murder, the maximum penalty of imprisonment. The prosecutor had requested 16 years. The defendant had requested a court ruling of granting a stay of execution under surveillance on the ground that 'the murderous intent comes from mental disorder'.
The court explained the ruling of heavier penalty than the prosecutor's demand by four years as:
(1) Mother rejected a proposal to live together,
(2) society cannot afford to cope with the defendant who has mental disorder, and
(3) the defendant may repeat crimes and it is useful to the social order to keep him in the penitentiary as long as possible, during which he may have time enough to consider what he had done against his sister.
Repetition of Criminal Acts - Not Plausible
Developmental disability is caused by congenital brain disorder. The defendant was diagnosed for the first time in the psychiatric test after the arrest as a patient of Asperger Syndrome, a pervasive developmental disorder. Patients have difficulties in communicating with others and sometimes suffer from paranoia.
The defendant abandoned going to school as he began to dislike it when he was a 5th grader in the elementary school. And then he had led a life in isolation from others for almost 30 years. When he hated to go to school, he begged and appealed parents to change a school or place to live to make a re-start, but failed in vain. He had attributed the fact to his sister. He had kept and deepened grudge against her for 30 years, and then he killed her.
The defendant had lived with his mother. His sister, after marriage, had left home. Reportedly, one day she told him to be more independent, which triggered a criminal act. The defendant's lawyer explains that 'complicated, mixed hatred with a sense of dependency on his family caused the crime. He will never attack a complete stranger'.
The court decision omits vital points: one is that the society today is more receptive by a Law to Help Patients of Developmental Disorder and information is shared of characteristics of the illness and patients' behaviors. The other is that under the current penitentiary system an identical way is applied to ordinary prisoners and patients of the disease, and therefore, the disorder does not recover but worsens.
The ruling violates the rule of penal code, to punish criminal acts. It discriminates a man with health problems as it isolates the defendant on the ground he may repeat crimes. This is a measure to preserve law and order.
A group of assembly members of Osaka City attempted to enact a wrong, biased ordinance based on prejudice that 'developmental disorder is attributed to lack of family love'. The members belong to a political group, called the Osaka-Ishin-no-Kai.
Lay Judges influenced by Social Mood
The judgment bases on an argument that persons with mental disorder, if they commit a crime, should be segregated. We see a trend to make laws stricter behind the court decision. Felony decreases, but the police authority and commercial media try to produce a critical mood to justify a severer punishment practice, saying that safety deteriorates in every day life.
The lay judge system was introduced so that ordinary citizens should join criminal trials to reflect civil sentiment. But today criticisms arise that a severer decision is produced after incorporating citizens' sense.
The unfair court decision against the Osaka resident tells that lay judges felt crisis-ridden after influenced by a mood that safety is jeopardized.
October 2, 2012