The Yomiuri ShimbunDespicable crimes committed by exploiting the mental agony of young victims are set to be tried at a court of justice. It is essential to clarify the perpetrator’s motive and his method of committing the offense so as to prevent similar offenses.
The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has indicted Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, the suspect in the case in which the bodies of nine people were found at his apartment house in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Although the charges cited as reasons for his arrest had entailed the murders of the nine persons and the abandonment of their bodies, the latest indictment applied such charges to him as robbery-forcible intercourse-murder, an offense whose statutory penalty is even more grave.
The victims were eight women aged 15 to 26, and also one man. Shiraishi is said to have approached the victims after they posted messages suggesting they had suicidal wishes via their Twitter accounts. Making such remarks to them as “Let us die together,” he allegedly took them into his apartment room, where he then killed one victim after another.
Shiraishi has told investigators that the purpose of these murders was to take money away from the victims or sexually assault them. “Nobody truly wanted to die,” he is also quoted as saying. The prosecution probably intends to exhaust every means to prove his motive for the murders, presuming a case in which his defense counsel makes such assertions as that the murders had been committed at the victims’ requests.
The man’s crimes were macabre. After killing the victims by strangling them with a rope, he mutilated their bodies. He concealed their heads in cooler boxes or elsewhere.
Shiraishi’s pre-indictment confinement for psychiatric tests lasted as long as five months. If he is recognized to be criminally responsible, he will inevitably be condemned to death, judging from the crimes named in the indictment. His crimes were grave in this respect. It was understandable for the district public prosecutors office to take extreme care in indicting him.
Consider lay judges
The case will be judged in a lay judge trial, following pretrial procedures for narrowing down the pieces of evidence and points of contention to be introduced during the trial.
Given that the murders were committed behind closed doors, efforts to uncover the whole truth behind the case will largely rely on the confessions taken from the accused. While his crimes were markedly ruthless, there are some mysteries about the motive revealed by Shiraishi, as shown by the fact that some victims had only several hundred yen when they were killed.
It is hoped that whole matter will be brought to light in the case, which will go down in the history of crime, through efforts by the prosecution and the defense counsel to prove their respective assertions.
During the trial of the case that is expected to last for an extended period, immeasurable burdens will weigh on lay judges physically and mentally, as they will deal with shocking evidence, including photos of the bodies. The court should give sufficient consideration to the lay judges.
A major aspect of the case reflects the reality that there is a flood of internet posts saying, “I want to die.”
Although an exchange of messages through social networking services is not easily subjected to external scrutiny, internet posts that may encourage people to commit suicide should not be carelessly left as they are. It has been found that Shiraishi posted such messages as, “I’ll help you die.”
Efforts have been initiated to automatically display information about consultation service offices for those who have used suicide-related terms in searching for internet information. One nonprofit organization is working to monitor internet posts and find people who have posted expressions of suicidal thoughts, thereby encouraging them to receive consultation services. Such efforts should be more widely promoted to prevent incidents similar to the Zama case.