Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal penalty in Japan. It is applied in practice only for murder, and executions are carried out by hanging. Death sentences are usually imposed in cases of multiple murders, although some single murderers were also hanged if their crime was serious.
When did capital punishment appear in Japan?
From about the 4th century onwards, Japan became increasingly influenced by the Chinese judicial system and gradually adopted a system of different punishments for different crimes, including the death penalty.
However, beginning in the Nara period, cruel punishments and the death penalty were less and less, probably as a result of the influence of Buddhists, the death penalty was abolished in the Heian period. The death penalty was not used for the next 300 years, until the Genpei War.
During the Kamakura period, capital punishment was widely used and methods of execution became increasingly cruel and included burning, boiling and crucifixion, among many others.
During the Muromachi period, even more severe methods of execution came into use, such as crucifixion upside down, stuffing by spear, sawdust and dismemberment with oxen or carts.
These harsh methods and the liberal use of the death penalty continued throughout the Edo period and into the early Meiji period, but due to the influence of Confucianism, offenses against masters and elders were increasingly punished more harshly than offenses against those of lesser class.
In 1871, as a result of a major reform of the penal code, the number of crimes punishable by death was reduced and excessively cruel torture and flagellation were abolished.
Criteria for the death penalty in Japan
Although technically not a precedent, this guideline has been followed by all subsequent capital cases in Japan. The nine criteria are as follows:
- Degree of evil;
- How the crime was committed; especially the way in which the victim was killed;
- Result of the crime; especially the number of victims;
- Feelings of the victim's family members;
- Impact of crime on Japanese society;
- The defendant's age (in Japan, the age of majority is from the age of 20);
- The defendant's previous criminal history;
- Degree of remorse shown by the defendant;
Enforcement process in Japan
The execution mandate is signed by the Minister of Justice after internal consultations with the Ministry of Justice. Once the final approval is signed, enforcement will take place within five days. By statute, execution cannot take place on a national holiday, Saturday, Sunday, or between December 31 and January 2.
The death penalty is carried out by hanging in an execution chamber inside the detention center. When an execution order has been issued, the sentenced prisoner is informed the morning of his execution. Convicts are given the choice of the last meal.
The prisoner's family and legal representatives, as well as the general public, are not informed until later. Since December 7, 2007, authorities have released the names, nature of crime and ages of executed prisoners.
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