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Man convicted of murdering 4 as minor is among 2 inmates hanged

In this file photo taken on March 6, 1992, an apartment in the Chiba Prefecture city of Ichikawa, where four people were found dead, is pictured. (Mainichi)

A 44-year-old death row inmate, convicted of murdering four members of a family when he was a minor, was hanged at the Tokyo Detention Center on Dec. 19 along with another inmate, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa announced.

    Teruhiko Seki had been sentenced to death for robbing and murdering a company executive and three of his family members at their home in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, in 1992 when he was 19, among other offenses.

    This is the first time the Justice Ministry has executed a death row inmate who was a minor at the time of the crime since Norio Nagayama -- who had been convicted of shooting four people dead in the late 1960s -- was hanged in August 1997. Nagayama was 19 at the time of the incident and 48 when he was hanged.

    The two inmates in the latest execution had sought retrials for their cases, according to sources close to the inmates. The Justice Ministry had tended to avoid executing death row inmates while they were demanding retrials. In July, however, two death row inmates including one who was asking for a retrial were executed on the order of then Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda.

    According to the final ruling, Seki broke into the home of the company executive, who was then 42, in Ichikawa on March 5, 1992, and strangled his 83-year-old mother. Seki then stabbed the executive and his 36-year-old wife who came home later, and stole cash and other valuables. The following day, he murdered the couple's 4-year-old younger daughter after she began to cry. Seki committed the crime to make money that a criminal syndicate was demanding from him.

    In the appeal trial, the defense counsel argued that the death sentence was excessive considering the spirit of the Juvenile Act, which places emphasis on rehabilitating minors involved in crimes. The Supreme Court concluded, however, that the choice of the death penalty was unavoidable, pointing out that the crime, which resulted in the deaths of four people, was extremely serious and it was cruel. It added that the emotion of the couple's surviving elder daughter against him was extremely severe, and upheld the lower courts' death sentence in December 2001.

    The other inmate who was hanged on Dec. 19, 69-year-old Kiyoshi Matsui, was convicted of fatally hitting a 42-year-old woman with a hammer in Annaka, Gunma Prefecture in February 1994 after he found out that the victim had no intention of marrying him even though she had promised to wed him and he had been repaying her debts. Matsui also murdered the victim's parents because he thought they opposed her marriage to him. Moreover, he also attempted to kill the woman's younger sister and the sister's daughter.

    The Mainichi Shimbun had previously reported on the 1992 Ichikawa murder case with the defendant's name withheld out of respect for the spirit of the Juvenile Act. We have revealed his name, however, as the defendant has lost his chance of rehabilitation following the execution and we have judged that the person whose life was taken as a state punishment should be identified.

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