• Yomiuri Editorial

Zama Killing Spree Defendant’s Selfish Deeds Disregarding Human Life Led to Death Sentence

It was a despicable crime that took advantage of the suffering of young victims. Considering the grave consequences, with the murder of nine people, it can be said that there was no decision possible other than the death penalty.

The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court has handed down a death sentence to Takahiro Shiraishi in a lay judge trial over the murder of nine people aged 15 to 26 at an apartment in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 2017.

The victims posted messages on social media indicating their desire to commit suicide. It was only natural that the ruling severely criticized the crimes, saying: “The defendant targeted victims who were in a mentally weak condition and deceived them with sweet words. It was an unusually heinous criminal act in the history of crime.”

The defendant, who was charged with crimes including robbery and murder related to forced sexual intercourse, pleaded guilty to all charges in his first trial. He explained that his motives for the crimes included stealing money and raping women. It has been reported that after the murders, he dismembered the bodies to prevent the incidents from being uncovered.

Regarding the killings of nine people in two months, the defendant made comments including that it was a life of constantly pursuing pleasure and that he hoped that the crimes would not come to light. Does not the defendant think too little of the importance of life?

During the trial, there were instances in which there were discrepancies in the statements between the defendant and his lawyers. The defense claimed that the victims had consented to being murdered and also called into question whether he is competent to take criminal responsibility. However, the ruling did not acknowledge these claims.

The defendant had expressed his intention during the trial to accept the ruling and had indicated that he would not appeal to a higher court. His lawyers, however, after the ruling was handed down, said they would consider making an appeal.

No words of sincere remorse or apology could be heard from the defendant. The bereaved families had expressed their desire for the defendant to be strictly punished. The defendant must face up to the gravity of his crimes.

Through such materials as the testimonies of bereaved family members in court, it was obvious that the victims were loved by their families and were needed by those around them.

Among the victims were a high school girl who dreamed of becoming a school nurse and a woman who was making efforts to obtain a qualification to become a full-time employee. The mother of another high school girl who was looking forward to wearing a furisode long-sleeved kimono at her coming-of-age ceremony said that her daughter was the family’s sunshine.

The central and local governments must heighten their preparedness to connect people who are struggle to live with counseling services that can properly deal with their problems, rather than having them reach out to criminals like the defendant.

There are incidents in which criminals have used sweet words to approach people who confess their worries online, resulting in sexual assaults and robberies. It is necessary to recognize once again the danger of connecting with strangers through social media.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 16, 2020.