Japan executes 2 convicted of murder in 1st jury trial

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan executed two people by hanging on Friday, including one who was convicted in a jury trial for the first time under a new system that began six years ago.

Sumitoshi Tsuda was found guilty of killing three people in 2009, and Kazuyuki Wakabayashi was convicted of killing a woman and her daughter in 2006.

Tsuda was the first to be executed after a jury trial. Jury trials are in addition to trials conducted by judges only, which used to be standard in Japan.

The Justice Ministry said Tsuda was put to death in a Tokyo facility, while Wakabayashi was executed in Sendai.

Amnesty International criticized the executions, saying 14 people have now been put to death under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"The death penalty is not justice or an answer to tackling crime, it is a cruel form of punishment that flies in the face of respect for life," said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director for the human rights group.

Recent opinion polls show that most Japanese support the death penalty.

Tsuda was found guilty of killing a neighbor and two others with a knife after he complained that the neighbor was opening and shutting his door too noisily, according to the Mainichi newspaper. Tsuda withdrew his appeal after his conviction.

Wakabayashi, whose trial was not by jury, initially pleaded guilty but later asserted his innocence, the Mainichi said.

Japan's justice system has been criticized over cases in which confessions were coerced, and in which DNA tests proved the innocence of people who spent years in incarceration.


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama .

Her work can be found at: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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