Japan jurors hand down first death sentence to minor
Thu, Nov 25, 2010

TOKYO - Japanese jurors Thursday sentenced a teenager to hang for a double murder, the first death penalty given to a minor under the nation's newly-introduced jury system, court officials said.

The 19-year-old defendant, whose name was withheld, was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend and her sister to death at their house in Miyagi, northern Japan, in February this year.

Under Japanese law, people under 20-years-old are tried as minors.

The teenager, who committed the murders after his girlfriend tried to end their relationship, also seriously injured another man in the attack.

"We cannot say he is fully aware of the graveness of the case," presiding judge Nobuyuki Suzuki told the Sendai District Court in Miyagi, according to Jiji Press.

"The possibility of his rehabilitation is extremely low," the judge said, adding that age was not a "decisive" factor on death penalties. The defendant was 18 years and seven months old when he killed the victims.

The sentence - decided by six members of the jury and three professional judges - was the first time the death penalty was handed down to a minor since Japan introduced the so-called lay-judge system in May last year.

Last week, jurors at the Yokohama District Court sentenced a 32-year-old man to death for a double murder.

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialised democracy to carry out capital punishment, a practice that has earned Tokyo repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

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