Japanese Court Sentences 21-Year-Old Man to Death for Murder and Arson Committed at Age 19

KOFU, Japan – A 21-year-old man named Endo Yuki has been sentenced to death by the Kofu District Court in Yamanashi Prefecture for committing murder and arson at the age of 19. This makes him the first person to receive the death penalty for a crime committed at 18 or 19 since Japan’s revised juvenile law took effect in 2022, lowering the age of adulthood. Endo was convicted of entering the home of a woman he admired, killing her parents, and setting the house on fire in October 2021, as well as attacking the woman’s sister. The family resided in Kofu City, where Endo was taking evening classes at a high school.

During the trial, the focus was on Endo’s mental competence and whether he could be held accountable for his actions. While prosecutors argued that he was fully competent and therefore deserving of the death penalty, the defense claimed that Endo had diminished mental capacity at the time of the crime and should not receive capital punishment. Presiding Judge Mikami Jun, in delivering the ruling, described the crime as extremely malicious and cold-blooded, with a strong intent to kill. He also noted that Endo had not sincerely apologized to the bereaved family.

The judge emphasized that due to the gravity of the criminal responsibility and the low chance of rehabilitation, the death sentence was unavoidable, even considering Endo’s age at the time of the crime. The revised juvenile law in Japan now allows media to report the names and other information of defendants prosecuted for crimes committed at the age of 18 or 19. This marks a significant shift in how young adult offenders are treated within the legal system.

Endo, upon hearing the ruling, nodded twice. The case reflects the ongoing debate over the criminal responsibility and treatment of individuals aged 18 and 19, as Japan grapples with the implications of lowering the age of adulthood.