A voice saying, “It’s a traffic accident,” immediately drew a crowd of people. Then, a man got out of a truck and, without any sign of hesitation, walked straight ahead and made a gesture as if he was going to push away the crowd. Then, the person who was pushed away fell down. At first I had no idea what had happened, but then someone shouted, ‘He’s got a knife!’ Everyone ran away as if scattering spiderlings, unable to grasp the situation.”
At the time of the incident, a maid cafe clerk who was present at the scene told this magazine.
On July 26, Tomohiro Kato, 39, who committed the indiscriminate serial murders in Akihabara in June 2008, was executed. The place was the Tokyo Detention Center where he had been imprisoned.
Seven people, including passersby, were killed and 10 others seriously or slightly injured in the incident. At the time, the pedestrian paradise of Akihabara, the scene of the incident, was a screaming hellscape. Immediately after the incident, a male witness interviewed by this magazine testified as follows
[The crowd] was like, ‘Woah! Aah! It was like being in a battlefield. The whole area was a pool of blood.”
The victims included a university student, a company employee, and a cook, all of whom had no connection to Kato’s death sentence. Some of those who survived are said to still be suffering from aftereffects. Why did it take more than 14 years from the time of the incident to the execution?
One reason is the magnitude of the damage. Normally, it takes a few months from the occurrence of a case to the first trial, but it took about a year and a half for the Akihabara murder case. This is because the more victims there are, the more time is inevitably needed before the trial. Furthermore, Kato was sentenced to death in both the first and second trials, but his defense appealed, saying, ‘There is a suspicion that he was not responsible at the time of the crime. In the end, the Supreme Court found that Kato did have the ability to take responsibility for his actions, and the death sentence became final. But at that time, February 2003, more than six and a half years had already passed since the incident.
However, the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that the execution must take place “within six months” from the time the sentence is finalized. Why did it take another seven years after the sentence was finalized?
The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure are, so to speak, a kind of “target for effort,” but they are not legally binding. It is said that the average time between the finalization of a sentence and its execution is about five years, but it can be affected by various factors, such as the justice minister’s ideological beliefs, pardons, the presence or absence of accomplices, and political ties. Seven years from the date of confirmation is by no means too long, but the Ministry of Justice and the minister have not clarified why this timing was chosen.
At a press conference on August 26, Justice Minister Sadahisa Furukawa said, “As Minister of Justice, I ordered the execution of the death penalty after careful and cautious consideration,” but did not comment on details, such as whether a retrial was pending.
One of the victim’s acquaintances said, “Fourteen years was a long time. Why did it take so long? Shouldn’t the government explain?”