Ex-cop's death penalty upheld over murder of family in Japan

Kyodo News

Posted at Sep 15 2021 04:37 PM

A high court denied Wednesday an appeal lodged by the defense of a former policeman who a lower court ruled should be put to death for the murder of his wife and two children at their southwestern Japan home in June 2017.

The Fukuoka High Court rejected an appeal by Mitsuru Nakata, 43, saying the district court was correct in its findings and decision to impose the death penalty given the seriousness of the crime. Nakata's lawyers had argued his innocence during the appeal.

In the absence of witness accounts or a confession, the Fukuoka District Court found in December 2019 that Nakata was guilty of the murders, ruling out the possibility an intruder was responsible based on the police investigation and other evidence including security camera footage from near their home.

His defense team had claimed that the three could have died after Nakata went to work in the morning, saying the possibility the crime was committed by an outsider cannot be ruled out.

Presiding high court Judge Yasuo Tsujikawa said testimony provided by a forensic scientist that said the three victims had died before the defendant went to work was credible.

"The judgment of the district court, which rejected the possibility of a crime by an outsider, was not unreasonable," Tsujikawa said.

According to the district and high court rulings, Nakata, then a sergeant with the Fukuoka prefectural police department, strangled his wife Yukiko, 38, son Ryosuke, 9, and daughter Miyu, 6, at their home in Ogori sometime between the late hours of June 5, 2017, and the following morning.

The lower court had highlighted an injury on Nakata's arm believed to have been sustained when his wife was resisting his attack as evidence he was involved. A DNA sample of material taken from under one of the woman's fingernails matched that of Nakata.

The victims' bodies were discovered by the wife's sister, who visited the house in the early morning of June 6 after Nakata left for work.

The wife's bereaved family said after the latest ruling was handed down: "Now we just wish to spend our time quietly with the memories of Yukiko, Ryosuke and Miyu."

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