18-Year Sentence Upheld over Fatal Road Rage Case near Tokyo

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tokyo High Court and Tokyo District Court in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—A Japanese high court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling sentencing a 32-year-old man to 18 years in prison over a 2017 fatal expressway road rage incident near Tokyo.

Akira Ando, presiding judge at Tokyo High Court, rejected the defense’s appeal against the Yokohama District Court ruling that recognized the causal linkage between the driving of Kazuho Ishibashi and an ensuing accident, finding him guilty of dangerous driving causing death and injury.

The Yokohama ruling was issued in June 2022 in a retrial of a case that the high court had sent back to the lower court.

The defense argued in the appeal trial that the prosecutors initially claimed that Ishibashi repeatedly changed lanes, but suddenly changed their opinion in the retrial to say that the defendant may have been driving across lanes, not giving the defendant the opportunity to defend himself.

Ando said there were no procedural failures on the part of the prosecutors as driving across lanes should be deemed to be included in the indictment, which accused Ishibashi of bringing his car extremely close to the victims’ vehicle.

According to the verdict, Ishibashi repeatedly blocked the path of a vehicle driven by 45-year-old Yoshihisa Hagiyama on the Tomei Expressway in Oi, Kanagawa Prefecture, on June 5, 2017, forcing it to stop on a passing lane and causing a crash that left him and his wife dead and their two daughters injured.

In Monday’s hearing, Ishibashi listened to the verdict while occasionally twisting his head. After the court adjourned, he told the judge, “Wait until I get out,” before leaving the courtroom.