Due to the "low likelihood of reform," Japan sentences a specific minor to death for the first time. How can this be evaluated? What implications does this have for juvenile crime in our country?

According to reports from NHK and Asahi Shimbun, a 21-year-old man in Japan has been sentenced to death for killing the parents of his unrequited love interest and setting fire to their house two years ago. This marks the first death penalty case in Japan since the enactment of the “Juvenile Law,” which classifies 18-19 year-olds as specific minors.In 2021, when he was 19 years old and still in high school, Yuuki Endo broke into the home of his unrequited love interest in the early morning hours. He killed the girl’s parents and attempted to harm her 14-year-old sister, causing her injuries. Endo then proceeded to set the house on fire, completely destroying it. Both girls managed to escape by jumping from the second floor.On January 18, 2024, the Kofu District Court in Japan sentenced Endo to death, stating, “This is a crime driven by extreme malice and intent to kill, with a selfish and unreasonable motive… Even considering his age to the fullest extent, his criminal responsibility is significant, and the likelihood of rehabilitation is very low.” Defense lawyers have mentioned that they will consult with the defendant before deciding whether to appeal.Due to Japan lowering the age of adulthood from 20 to 18, the “Juvenile Law” in Japan has been revised, categorizing 18-19 year-old offenders as “specific minors.” The case will be sent to the family court, and the handling decision will be made based on the defendant’s upbringing and family environment. If the prosecutor brings charges, the criminal trial will be conducted publicly, similar to adult cases. Japan sentences 19-year-old man to death for killing parents of unrequited love interest: “Very low likelihood of rehabilitation.”

The Peculiarities of Japan’s Age of Majority Standards

Japan’s standards for adulthood have always been peculiar, offering little relevance for reference.

Initially, the age of majority in Japan was 20, a standard that only changed to 18 in recent years.

However, when the age of majority was set at 20, the legal age requirements for various activities were as follows:

  • Night work under the Labor Standards Act: 18 years old
  • Legal protection for sexual activities: 18 years old
  • Access to certain websites and purchasing certain items: 18 years old
  • Adulthood in the Imperial Family: 18 years old
  • Prohibition of alcohol and tobacco consumption for minors: 20 years old.

Indeed, in those days in Japan, you could work at night and engage in sexual activities without being considered a child at the age of 18. You could unabashedly book a hotel room or even earn money by pole dancing in a nightclub. But trying to buy alcohol or cigarettes? Sorry, you’re not old enough.

So, when considering whether a 19-year-old who commits a heinous crime should be protected under juvenile standards and given a chance…

I don’t think they should.

I have to be honest, looking at this photo, Old Hu can’t help but raise a question mark…

I hope the same judgment can be applied to this:

How to view the case of a third-grade junior high school boy in Nantong, Jiangsu, who died due to campus bullying?

Export Luo Sheng to Japan for guidance.

Lowering the Criminal Responsibility Age for Minors in China

At this age, with such circumstances, breaking into a house, causing two deaths and one injury, and even setting it on fire with the intention to destroy evidence – they’ve already got their hands on firearms in the Celestial Empire. Is there a need to be so entangled?

On the other hand, in China, regarding the criminal responsibility age for minors, the 13th National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s 24th meeting on December 26, 2020, approved the 11th amendment to the Criminal Law, once again conditionally lowering the age for minors' criminal responsibility.

  1. Article 17 of the Criminal Law is amended as follows: “A person who has reached the age of sixteen shall be criminally responsible. A person who has reached the age of fourteen but not sixteen, who commits intentional homicide, intentionally inflicts serious injury or death, rape, robbery, drug trafficking, arson, explosion, or the crime of placing dangerous substances, shall be criminally responsible. A person who has reached the age of twelve but not fourteen, who commits intentional homicide or intentional injury, causing death or causing serious disability by particularly cruel means, and whose circumstances are particularly serious, shall be criminally responsible. For persons under the age of eighteen who are criminally responsible according to the provisions of the preceding three paragraphs, a lighter or mitigated punishment shall be imposed compared to the severity of the penalty.”

In comparison to the severity of the punishment, the certainty of punishment carries more deterrence.

Economize: Nothing worth learning.

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Raising the Minimum Age for the Death Penalty in China

One of my most vivid memories is from a few years ago when a girl threw a young boy from a high-rise building.

She could relocate, change her name, and start a new life.

But the young boy who fell to his death had no future, and his family was left in perpetual grief.

Thanks to a well-off life, today’s children grow up tall; some even reach 1.7 or 1.8 meters in middle school.

Thanks to the information age, today’s children are knowledgeable about everything!

We can no longer treat older “minors” as children.

Lowering the age for the death penalty is imperative!

In addition,

In our country, you can be sentenced to death at 18. Japan has set the age at 19. What can we learn from this?

Significance and Differences in Minimum Age for Criminal Responsibility: China vs. Japan

There is no significant relevance, only a cautionary tale!

Let’s examine the case itself:

In 2021, at the age of 19, Yusuke Endo, a high school student, broke into the home of his crush in the early hours of the morning. He killed the girl’s parents, attempted to harm her 14-year-old sister, and set the house on fire, which the two girls narrowly escaped from the second floor. On January 18, 2024, the Kofu District Court in Japan sentenced Endo to death, stating, “This is a crime driven by extreme malice and intent, with a selfish and unreasonable motive… even considering his age, his criminal responsibility is significant, and the possibility of rehabilitation is low.”

Although China’s legal system has drawn inspiration from Japanese law, in this case, the defendant was already 19 years old, which would have placed him within the realm of full criminal responsibility in China, not as a minor!

Let’s avoid placing the blame solely on the questioner; Japan’s legal ambiguity regarding minors also shares some responsibility.

1. Why is 19 Considered a Minor in Japan?

In fact, Japan’s existing Civil Code also stipulates that those under 18 years of age are considered minors.

However, for a considerable period from 1876 to 2021, Japan’s Civil Code defined adulthood as reaching the age of 20.

It wasn’t until 2021 that Japan finally revised the age definition for minors in the Civil Code, lowering it to 18.

But peculiarly, not all age limits for minors were modified.

For instance, the Juvenile Law still considers 20 years old as the dividing line between adulthood and childhood. Nevertheless, Japan believes that “treatment for those aged 18 and 19 should be reduced,” leading to some changes in the Juvenile Law. This places 18 and 19-year-olds as “specific minors” – although they are still considered minors under the Juvenile Law, they receive reduced legal protection.

However, the reduced legal protection does not include the possibility of being sentenced to death.

Because, prior to this amendment, Article 51 of the Juvenile Law stipulated, “In the case of a person who has not yet reached eighteen years of age at the time of committing the crime and should be sentenced to death, life imprisonment shall be imposed.” In other words, before the amendment to the Juvenile Law, those who reached 18 years old could already be sentenced to death. There was no change in this regard.

Of course, in this case, if the defendant appeals, the execution of the death penalty could be delayed through a complex legal process.

Japan has had cases where it took over a decade from the death penalty sentence to execution.

2. Adjustments in China’s Age for Criminal Responsibility

China has consistently set the age of 18 as the threshold for determining whether one can be sentenced to death.

Article 49, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Law states, “A person who is under the age of eighteen at the time of committing a crime and a pregnant woman at the time of trial shall not be sentenced to death.”

Being under 18 years old makes one ineligible for the death penalty.

However, China has already lowered the age at which criminal responsibility can be pursued.

Previously, China’s Criminal Law stipulated that individuals who had reached the age of 16 could be held criminally responsible. Those who were between 14 and 16 years old could only be held criminally responsible for eight extremely serious crimes, such as intentional homicide, intentional injury resulting in severe injury or death, rape, robbery, drug trafficking, arson, explosion, and the release of dangerous substances. Those under 14 years old could not be held criminally responsible at all.

Starting from 2021, China’s Criminal Law introduced a new provision: “A person who has reached the age of twelve but not yet reached the age of fourteen and commits intentional homicide or intentional injury resulting in death or severe disability through particularly cruel means and with egregious circumstances, approved for prosecution by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, shall be held criminally responsible.” This means that, in exceptional cases, 12- and 13-year-old minors can face criminal responsibility.

Looking at it this way, China is much stricter than Japan when it comes to pursuing criminal responsibility for minors.

If there’s any borrowing of legal concepts, it seems that Japan could learn from China’s laws!

I remember that Luo Xiang and some others advocated for the abolition of the death penalty, and they also mentioned that developed countries do not have the death penalty.

The issue at hand involves two primary aspects: firstly, defining the age threshold for juveniles, and secondly, the notion of “very low potential for rehabilitation.”

In a nutshell, this legal decision sets a precedent. It suggests that in the public perception, there are cases where juvenile offenders are deemed unchangeable and beyond the scope of rehabilitative and social norm education.

Yes, what comes to mind is their heinous crimes and their seemingly irredeemable nature.

What I want to emphasize is that the law concludes that education and guidance are ineffective, which raises a significant question in the context of the death penalty debate – the cost of education.

The logic followed by the law in this case is that the state believes the cost of rehabilitating this individual is limitless. Here, ‘limitless’ doesn’t mean pouring an infinite amount of money, but rather that the budget for rehabilitation will be unlimited until reform is achieved, even if it takes a lifetime; education and guidance will not cease.

However, the decision made by the state is that it’s simply too expensive, and they won’t invest in it.

In three words, this is the perspective of proponents of the death penalty: “Not worth it.”

As for the age, it’s not the crucial factor. What matters is at what age the state is authorized to make such a determination.

I was ready to rant at the Japanese government, but when I opened it, I found out that the legal age of adulthood in Japan was 20 and has now been lowered to 18. What a useless reference.

Clickbait is so annoying.

Japan’s First Death Sentence for 18-19 Year-Old Under New Law

You asked why the full report isn’t released? In China, anyone over 18 is considered an adult, and they are punished according to the “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China.” Are you suggesting that Japan should also have specific regulations for underage individuals?

According to Japanese media reports, a 21-year-old man in Japan was sentenced to death for killing the parents of his unrequited love and setting a fire two years ago. This marks the first death sentence under Japan’s “Minors Law,” which designates 18-19-year-olds as special minors.

Minors According to Articles 17 and 18 of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China, individuals under the age of 18 are considered minors. Adults are fully capable of conducting civil legal acts independently. Minors aged 16 and above, whose main source of livelihood is their own income from labor, are considered fully capable of conducting civil legal acts.

According to the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China

Article 17: Those who have reached the age of 16 shall bear criminal responsibility.

Those who have reached the age of 14 but not 16, if they commit intentional homicide, intentional injury resulting in serious injury or death, rape, robbery, drug trafficking, arson, explosion, or the crime of endangering public security by dangerous means, shall bear criminal responsibility.

Those who have reached the age of 12 but not 14, if they commit intentional homicide or intentional injury, causing death or serious disability by especially cruel means and with particularly malicious circumstances, and are approved for prosecution by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, shall bear criminal responsibility. For individuals under the age of 18 who are prosecuted according to the provisions of the preceding three paragraphs, they shall be given a lighter or mitigated punishment.

For those under the age of 16 who are not subject to criminal punishment, their parents or other guardians shall be required to discipline them, and when necessary, they shall be subjected to special correctional education in accordance with the law.

Japan’s First Death Sentence for a Minor

The world is ultimately ruled by villains. Seven or eight years later, when I am released from prison, you should throw a grand party to welcome me.

On April 14, 1999, around 4 PM, the perpetrator, disguised as a familiar person to Yayoi Motomura, lured her to open the door.

While attempting to commit wrongdoing, Yayoi Motomura resisted, but she was overpowered by the perpetrator and ultimately strangled to death.

Afterwards, the perpetrator proceeded to molest the lifeless Yayoi Motomura.

At that moment, the perpetrator noticed that the young child in the house had been crying incessantly, fearing exposure, they heartlessly killed the infant.

After committing all these crimes, the perpetrator concealed the bodies of the mother and daughter in a storage cabinet and left.

This suspect, just past his 18th birthday, was Takayuki Fukuda.

Although Takayuki Fukuda admitted to all his crimes, Yayoi Motomura remained uneasy.

But no matter how vehemently Yayoi Motomura denounced Takayuki Fukuda’s crimes, the court’s judges remained aloof.

In the end, the court sentenced Takayuki Fukuda to life imprisonment, and since he was still a minor, his life imprisonment doesn’t mean he will spend his entire life in prison.

In fact, Japan, as the first country in the world to abolish the death penalty, has a long history of this policy.

As far back as 1400 years ago, Emperor Saga of Japan ordered the abolition of the death penalty.

Later, Japan’s death penalty was briefly reinstated but was abolished again when the new era arrived.

Since the end of World War II, the number of individuals sentenced to death in Japan has not exceeded 50, and even someone like Tetsuya Yamagami, who assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8, 2022, finds it difficult to receive the death penalty.

Under Japanese law, the punishment for intentional homicide varies depending on the circumstances, generally resulting in life imprisonment or a prison sentence of more than 5 years.

In certain cases, such as underage offenders, a prison sentence of less than 5 years may be imposed, and first-time offenders may also receive reduced sentences.

So, it’s not surprising that someone like Takayuki Fukuda, who is both a minor and a first-time offender, received a life imprisonment sentence.

Justice prevailed over darkness.

However, Takayuki Fukuda did not anticipate that he would ultimately pay the price for his reckless actions.

Finally, in 2008, Japan’s Supreme Court began a retrial of Takayuki Fukuda.

This time, the opponents faced by Yayoi Motomura and Prosecutor Yoshida were a total of 21 defense lawyers.

These defense lawyers were all driven by the word “human rights” on their own, defending the devil without any conscience.

They used this terrifying murder case as a stepping stone to enhance their own reputation, without considering that their client was a demon who had killed an 11-month-old girl.

But no matter how these people defended Takayuki Fukuda without conscience, the evidence in the hands of Yayoi Motomura and Prosecutor Yoshida was sufficient to prove that if Takayuki Fukuda were released from prison, he would continue to commit even more terrible acts.

The court ultimately sentenced Takayuki Fukuda to death, and after that, the 21 lawyers who defended him faced the condemnation of the Japanese public, with hardly any of them continuing in the legal profession.

In 2010, a film titled “Why Do You Fight Against Despair?” directed by a Japanese filmmaker, portrayed Yayoi Motomura’s ordeal to the public through cinema.

In the film, Taiki Otsuki (aka Takayuki Fukuda) was finally executed in 2012, much to the audience’s satisfaction.

But in the real world in 2022, 14 years after Takayuki Fukuda was sentenced to death, he is still living comfortably in prison.

From this perspective, the efforts of Yayoi Motomura and Prosecutor Yoshida over the past dozen years have been in vain, and Japan’s judicial system has not undergone any changes because of them.

The grieving still weep at night, while the perpetrators of violence continue to live comfortably in prison.

Previous scientific research has shown that if a person is found to have antisocial personality traits at around the age of 4, there are almost no effective interventions to reverse this. In other words, such individuals are almost destined to become criminals.

It is best to intervene and rehabilitate these individuals before they commit serious crimes, even though the effectiveness of such measures may be limited.

If someone commits extremely serious crimes, the death penalty can also be considered a reasonable consequence.

Minors cannot be sentenced to death, but what if they are involved in drug trafficking with more than 1 ton of drugs?