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Death penalty in Japan

thomas

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May the New York Times forgive me (as their articles can only be accessed online by subscribers), but here's their recent article on death penalty in Japan:

Secrecy of Japan's Executions Is Criticized as Unduly Cruel

By Howard W. French

OSAKA, Japan, June 24 窶 When the hangman failed to summon him from his cell by late December, Toshihiko Hasegawa, a convicted murderer, reckoned that, by the practices of Japan's penal system, he had at least one more year to live. After weeks of intense foreboding over the approach of death, Mr. Hasegawa wrote his adoptive mother to tell her that he could at last breathe freely again for one more year, when he expected that his execution watch would resume.

"It seems that I will somehow be able to survive this year's Christmas," he wrote. "This is thanks to you, Mother, who is praying to God for me every day, and I am really grateful. The fact I am about to survive this Christmas means I am newly given the precious time to devote myself to faith and atonement for my sins, and I have to use this time usefully, not to waste even a minute." Two days later, though, without any advance notice to him or his family, the 51-year-old prisoner was led from his cell and hanged. Takako Hasegawa, a 63-year-old Roman Catholic nun whose religious name is Sister Luisa and who adopted the death row inmate in 1993 after his conversion to Christianity, was informed several hours after the execution in a telephone call from the prisoner's sister. "My head was just swimming," she said in an interview. "I was in shock."

Each year, around the year's end or early spring depending on the prison, a handful of inmates are led from their cells and hanged. What does not vary is the policy of near total secrecy that the families of the executed and human rights groups say makes Japan's practice of capital punishment unnecessarily cruel. Prisoners are told of their execution only moments before their hanging, and are given only enough time to clean their cells, write a final letter and receive last rites. Relatives are told of the execution only after the fact and are given a mere 24 hours to collect the body.

Adding to the secrecy, the Ministry of Justice refuses to release the names of the hanged, except to their relatives, or even to confirm the number of prisoners on death row, which human rights lawyers now estimate at 56. Because it typically executes only five or six prisoners each year, Japan has managed to keep a relatively low profile with international campaigners against the death penalty. The United Nations Human Rights Commission, however, has condemned Japan's secretive executions.

Abolishing capital punishment, meanwhile, has recently become the object of a bipartisan campaign in the Japanese Parliament, with many members focusing on the secretive handling of prisoners as the death penalty's most anachronistic feature. "The Hasegawa family was lucky," said Reiko Oshima, a member of Parliament who seeks to abolish the death penalty. "He was executed in Nagoya and had a sister who lived nearby. If the family lived far away or they couldn't be contacted immediately, the body would have been disposed of. "Of course the death penalty by its very nature is cruel, but all of these things make it much worse."

Justice Ministry officials, for their part, insist that their system of secret executions is the most humane form of capital punishment. "It would be more cruel if we notified the inmates of their execution beforehand because it would inflict a major pain on them," said Jun Aoyama, a ministry official. "They would lose themselves to despair. They might even try to commit suicide or escape." In interviews, however, a former death row inmate and several relatives of executed prisoners all emphasized the severe anguish, which they said the practice of secret executions had caused them.

Sakae Menda spent 34 years on death row before becoming one of the rare Japanese to be released, in 1983, after his conviction was set aside. In an interview, Mr. Menda described the excruciating uncertainty he felt each time execution season rolled around. Over the years, he said, about 70 of his friends were shuffled away to their hangings. "Between 8 and 8:30 in the morning was the most critical time, because that was generally when prisoners were notified of their execution," Mr. Menda said. "Once you get past that moment, life resumes until the next day. But during those minutes, things get so quiet that the only sound you can hear is the feet of the wardens.

"You begin to feel the most terrible anxiety, because you don't know if they are going to stop in front of your cell. It is impossible to express how awful a feeling this was. I would have shivers down my spine. It was absolutely unbearable." Mr. Menda scoffs at the idea that withholding notification of prisoners' executions is a gesture of kindness. "Making us go through 30 to 40 minutes of intense stress like that every day was part of a system meant to make us docile," he said. "Saying they don't notify prisoners of their death beforehand because it isn't good for the inmates is just an excuse. The reality is that this is done for the convenience of the authorities."

Relatives of prisoners and death penalty opponents say the practice of secret executions has withstood calls for reform because of the powerful role of shame in Japanese society. Here, one's identity is far more tied up with one's family than in the West, and the taint of any serious crime can blight an entire household for generations.

For this reason, the bodies of most executed prisoners go unclaimed, because the families have already disassociated themselves from the criminal. Few relatives are willing to protest publicly, or even comment on the state's execution policies. For some on death row, their main link with the outside world has come through adoption. Ms. Hasegawa adopted her recently executed son in 1993, when he was 43 years old and had exhausted all appeals over his conviction for the murder of three people in an insurance fraud scheme. In doing so, she joined a small but fervent community of Christians and other social activists in Japan who adopt prisoners to prevent them from facing total isolation.

"He had three siblings, but they decided they didn't want to have anything to do with him," she said of Toshihiko Hasegawa. "His father visited him once or twice before he died, but they lived in the countryside and faced a lot of ostracism, with people watching them all the time. In Japan, that is the way shame functions." Itsuko and Toshiichi Ajima, a gently graying couple in their 50's, also adopted a man on death row. In 1994, Ms. Ajima learned of the execution of Yukio, her adopted son, in a telegram from the prison that read: "We want to discuss something urgently. Please call us immediately."

When they telephoned, a prison official said: "Today, we parted with Yukio-san. Shall we cremate the body, or will you pick it up within 24 hours?" The Ajimas have spent the years since writing letters to legislators and making television appearances aimed at raising public awareness about the death penalty. "We felt we had to do whatever we could to make sure that he was the last person in Japan to die like this."

With so few biological relatives of prisoners willing to speak out, one of the most powerful advocates of the abolishment of capital punishment has turned out to be Masaharu Harada, 55, a brother of one of Mr. Hasegawa's insurance fraud victims who has often appeared on television here to condemn the death penalty. After his imprisonment, Mr. Hasegawa wrote regularly to Mr. Harada to express his remorse over the killing, and for years, the victim's brother said he burned the letters without reading them. When he finally did open a letter one day, Mr. Harada said he was impressed with the sincerity of the prisoner's search for atonement. "I began to wonder, how can people atone if they are put to death, and, will I be healed by the execution?" Mr. Harada said, explaining his transformation into a campaigner against the death penalty. The policy of secrecy, he said, is a mistaken effort to preserve the dignity of the state. "It is as if they are saying, `Anything the state does is just,' " Mr. Harada said. "But the prisoner himself, as well as the family members, should be notified beforehand. Just think how cruel it is to spend your life every day thinking you or your family might be executed today or tomorrow."


Copyright © New York Times
 
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moyashi

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Wow, that was informative. Don't have the time to try the links but what was written above was ....

Interesting that you don't hear many people getting the death sentence on TV. Of course, you never hear a 999 year sentence either. From what I've seen on sentencing in Japan, you'd really have to be a wacko.

ugh, recently a man is being tried for walking into a elementary school and went about slaughtering little folk for the sake of wanting to kill. Last I heard, he wasn't even remorse.
I wonder if got the death penalty or not. Sorry, for not being more attentive.
 

kinjo

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I do not agree with capital punishment, how ever I do realise that in some cases life terms in prison are insuficient and the easy way out of a difficult situation, these people on death row are the kind of people that are unsafe in our world and this has to be acknowledged, so for these people, death penalties are the only solution, (which I hate to admit) the way it is carried out ect is what I have a problem with,,, there is no such thing a easy exucution, or a humain one, so it must be left up to the governors and the state, but I would say that the families of these people should have the option to be there for the sibling, and recieve the body if they wish,

just my thought on the subject,🙂
 

moyashi

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I heard it costs like $40,000 a year to keep a person in prison in New York State. While Japan has to be much more less.

Japan's system sounds inhumane but in general it's not as cozy as it's in the US.

death penalty ... that's a tough topic. I hope I never have to be in the position to contemplate either side of that story. Nor anyone else for that matter.
 

Mavurik

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Jails are primitive...

Humans don't deserve to be in jails, nor do animals in cages. This is my view. I don't think its right for people to be in jail. I just think people are too stupid to sit down and think about what could be done to prevent crimes from happening and good punishments. A good punishment is not putting somebody in a cage alone... or with other people where the environment is a much worse one than they came from. A good punishment is something that will make the person think about their actions and *gasp* change. As for the death penalty... I don't support that as well. Somebody can kill 1 or 5000 people. Killing them is still killing. If you kill a murderer, that's exactly what you are. Even if you support the killing of a murderer. That would make you an accomplice since you know about it and you're not against it. Wouldn't solving their problem and then making them a productive member of the society be a better choice? You might say that isn't possible but it is. There are ways to cure people, it's just that all of these years nobody has sat down and thought of ways to do so like they think of ways to make nuclear bombs and warfare. Not to mention there's too many people on death row or in jail for life who didn't commit the crimes, but those f*ckers they call cops and judges didn't do their jobs right and don't want to hear it. That's another thing... cops piss me off. I remember I was boxing outside once with some friends (with gloves on for Christ's sake) and a lady saw us and called the cops (one of those "good samaritan" types). The cops came and made us get in the car and we cooperated and everything. We didn't backtalk or lie. We even said we'll cooperate and in those exact words. When we got to my school, the cop said we weren't cooperating and we were lying to him, making us look bad because we obviously had did nothing wrong. I hate cops. Even if there are some good ones, I sure don't ever see them. Anyways, back on topic. The death penalty is wrong because its just a primitive method of dealing with things humans can't solve because they don't want to sit down and waste any energy on thinking of new and BETTER ways to do things. I can't respect anybody who supports the death penalty or jails, even if they are victims. To me that is a sign of one who can't think properly.

I personally, would have more satisfaction knowing that someone who committed a crime against me knew the full extent of what they did. I'm not some barbarian waiting to see them get cooked in a chair. God what a society I live in.

Edit:

A few other things I see that are wrong with the jail system is that usually people are worse off coming out than they were coming in. Would being raped/beat up/treated like an animal/degraded everyday make you a better person? Or being isolated more than 90% of the time? No. Common sense says those aren't the conditions to punish somebody and make them change. Those are the conditions to harm somebody. Barbaric ways of the idiot. Being in conditions like that would make you want to get out. I'm sure most people in jail could care less about what they did. They probably care more about getting out and saying the right things so they can do so. Then they realize when they get out (if they were in for a long time) that society doesn't accept them and their life would be easier in jail. Which leads to more crimes because they want to go back to where they can fit in (some do, not all). The death penalties are also barbaric. How can you say you're going to kill a murderer? Hypocrite. There's some criminals that do some pretty outrageous things but nothing is beyond a solution. Especially not a crime. You can always find a positive solution. But people just want to see the murderer dead. That is why most of society is capital s underlined and bolded Stupid. They get satisfaction out of knowing somebody will spend the rest of their lives in jail and then be electrocuted or injected with poison, or in some cases hanged. Why shouldn't you go to jail for being so cruel? Didn't you ever learn "two wrongs don't make a right."?The proper way to prevent crimes is better crime control. Also if people had values that would help too. If committing a crime was extremely dishonorable and disgraceful then less would occur believe it or not. Just because somebody knows they're going to jail or going to probably get a death sentence doesn't stop them. That will just make them think of ways to not get caught and then try it. The death penalty is barbaric. You can't really say it isn't. Killing is barbaric period. There is no justification.

 
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kinjo

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Ohhh Mavurik strong words and strong point of veiw🙂
but if prisons ect did not exsist, where would we put the mass murderers and the serial killers for example,even the child rapests (can spell the big word hehe), surely to god none of us want them moving into our streets, and working with us in our jobs ect, being a productive member of society in my opinion simply doesnt cut it, if they where given a refuse collection job or a street cleaner job, they are still on our streets with us so called "normal people", and who in thier right minds is going to take that descion and that chance??? most definately not me!!! (sorry my spelling has always been like this), placing these dangerous affenders in prison is not the easy option, its in my opinion its the only option, and untill some genious comes up with an equally safe alternative, prison is the safest and the most productive method of confining these people and allowing the rest of the world sleep as easy as possible, well thats my thoughts on the matter,
hope I havent been too strong with my words,🙂
 

Mavurik

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Well...

Obviously you don't know what prison is like. It's not safe at all. It's a very stupid method of controlling people as well. What is the point? There are other methods and ways of doing things that will bring about far better results. Many people just don't explore them because they don't care. I ask you this, are you human? People before they were killed on death row:

"I AM A PRODUCT OF YOUR CREATION. I RESPONDED AS PROGRAMMED....YOU SEEM TO THINK THAT EXECUTING CRIMINALS IS THE ANSWER, BUT AN OVERHAULING OF OUR ENTIRE SOCIETY IS THE REAL ANSWER. NO MATTER HOW STERILIZED AND SANITIZED YOU MAKE THIS EXECUTION, IT IS STILL MURDER.....YOU ARE AS MUCH GUILTY AS I AM AND WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE ONE DAY": WILLIAM BOYD TUCKER, GEORGIA, 5/29/87.

"ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HATING ME RIGHT NOW AND ARE WAITING TO SEE ME DIE, WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING, YOU AREN'T GOING TO FEEL ANY DIFFERENT. YOU ARE GONG TO HATE ME AS MUCH TOMORROW AS YOU DO TONIGHT. WHEN YOU WAKE UP AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED INSIDE, REACH OUT TO GOD....HE WILL HEAL YOU. LET HIM TOUCH YOUR HEARTS. DON'T HATE ALL YOUR LIVES": SEAN SELLERS, OKLAHOMA, 2/4/99.

*clap clap*

http://members.lycos.co.uk/robots/denials-2.html

I've done my part. My concience is cleared. As for the rest of you death penalty supporters, you're murderers in my eyes. Stay away from me. I don't want to live amongst murderers.
 

kinjo

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I dont want to live with murderers or like murderers, I also dont want to life with fear🙂

I dont hate murderers, I dont understand them🙂

My concience is also clear, I'M NOT A MURDERER

I have no part in passing legal judgement on murderers, as I have no part in the murder/murders they comit.

I do hope this has answered your question

@ Mavurik, I would'nt dream of forcing my opinion on you! Its my opinion, and if its right or wrong I'm not on trail 🙂
 

Mavurik

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Hmm...

In my opinion if you support it you're just like the people who perform the punishment. That's my opinion.
 

kinjo

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Like we have both said its an opinion that we are both intitled to, and maybe your right I could just be like those who perform the punishment,, or for the sake of an arguement I could be just like the serial murderer that takes innocent victims just for hell of it,,, or the man/woman that stalks and kills a small child for pleasure!!!, now I'l ask you a question!(if you dont mind) Where would you place me now? behind the walls of a prison? rehabilitation center? or a schools meals attendant,(now that I'v seen the light and found my new path in life) just to make me a productive member of society?.. hmmm I'd much rather be cooking for the children,,!!! after all those who pass judgement on me on this earth dont have the right to take me away my freedom or my right to affend again,🙂
 

kinjo

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back to your previous opinion of me having no knowledge of what "prison is like" I have to add that you could not be more wrong!! As previous as three years ago, 3/4 of my entire blood related male siblings where in prisons, due to crimes against the goverment ect (political), and the other 1/4 where of the tender ages of 12-17 years old, I also must add that I have quite a large extended family, and the actual number of detainees I do not wish to post, how-ever being raised in a polictically motavated island, Its quite common for woman to be involved in these aspects of the previouly mentioned status, so please dont believe, because I'm a woman I could'nt possibly comprehend the severity and the live in torture that you speak of,🙂

So tell me if you would,, Whats your knowledge of death row thats makes your "concience clear" and to speak for the unheard voices that dwell there?😇
 

moyashi

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Hi Mavrick. Truly a strong opinion there. Which is good to have I think.

But, it's sad to say that society as of today is such. There just plainly are sick people out there. Possibly a few hundred years ago with a smaller poplulation that it was easier to control and handle situations.

Problem is like you mentioned preventing and controlling such. What should we do ??? bow down to Geroge Orwell and Big Brother of 1987? Should we turn to communism, no not the fake types of China, Cuba and the Soviet Union. sorry, I can't do that either.

It sounds like we need a miracle drug or some kind of monitoring chip implanted into our skulls to watch over us.

Some humans are just sick. We, in turn, to protect those that aren't sick to live in relative freedom and take the risk of having to deal with sick people.

I hate to see the death penalty in action, but yet, it's still a fact of life.

I wonder what you would do if your parents, sibilings, or (future) children were raped and murdered by a looney bin case. What would you do? Turn the other cheek? I was brought that way too. If you are not a parent yet, you might be one day. I wonder if you'll still feel the same way if you daughter got raped. I doubt, seriously, if I could just sit there and say, "oh that's ok. I'm sure you won't do it again. You understand that wasn't very nice, don't you? .... Good let's be friends."

I'm trying to put some perspective here eh. Yes, it's not nice to go off and kill folks on death row. But they did have a choice. I wonder if some leeway should be given if the victimized family wished different. That way, not all would be hanged.

what was it ... "Do on to others as those shall do on to you." Yes, the conotation can go both ways.
 

moyashi

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(Instead of editing my post)

Let's all remember that this is a friendly forum, so let's try to keep things out of the personal arena while we discuss about heated topics.

cheers all!
 

Mavurik

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Hmm

Well, like I said. If it was me I'd have more satisfaction knowing the person knew fully what he/she did than just letting them cook in a chair or be poisoned to death and not care. Two wrongs don't make a right. If you were in the situation where somebody killed your family member, wanting to kill them, no matter how right it seems, is still murder. THESE ARE PEOPLE TOO. It seems like everyone forgets that. They're not animals. How would you like to be put in a cage your whole life where you're subject to be raped, beat, and harassed everyday only to be put in a chair and electrocuted, something so stupid and unintelligent it makes me want to smack the person who thought of such a stupid thing. You might as well just shoot them in the head. Why electrocute them or poison them? Not to mention wouldn't you rather get a remorseful apology and see a change in the person than just throw them in a cell and let them waste their life waiting to die? Even if they killed my daughter or something, I would be more satisfied that a suitable intelligent punishment was given, not some barbaric excuse for one just because nobody can sit down and use their heads anymore. I'm not trying to put anyone down, this is just my opinion.

"I AM A PRODUCT OF YOUR CREATION. I RESPONDED AS PROGRAMMED....YOU SEEM TO THINK THAT EXECUTING CRIMINALS IS THE ANSWER, BUT AN OVERHAULING OF OUR ENTIRE SOCIETY IS THE REAL ANSWER. NO MATTER HOW STERILIZED AND SANITIZED YOU MAKE THIS EXECUTION, IT IS STILL MURDER.....YOU ARE AS MUCH GUILTY AS I AM AND WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE ONE DAY": WILLIAM BOYD TUCKER, GEORGIA, 5/29/87.

"ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HATING ME RIGHT NOW AND ARE WAITING TO SEE ME DIE, WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING, YOU AREN'T GOING TO FEEL ANY DIFFERENT. YOU ARE GONG TO HATE ME AS MUCH TOMORROW AS YOU DO TONIGHT. WHEN YOU WAKE UP AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED INSIDE, REACH OUT TO GOD....HE WILL HEAL YOU. LET HIM TOUCH YOUR HEARTS. DON'T HATE ALL YOUR LIVES": SEAN SELLERS, OKLAHOMA, 2/4/99.
 

moyashi

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I do see where you're coming from but ... not all of these people are saveable. If they were do you really think that the death penalty would continue?

My hometown was lcoation to one of the largest pyschiatric facilities on the East Coast. They had all types there. Also, in the next town were facilities for Dow syndrome cases and such.

Now the psych. center is now a medium security prison.

I'm sorry but some folks just can't be saved.

ie. recently a nut case walked into an elementary school in Japan. He knifed about 10 kids. Most Japanese wackos would've at least started to cry -- fake or not -- and say they're sorry after being caught.

This guy, just smirked and kept saying he just wanted to off somebody.

Maybe, he'll change his mind later and repent.

Japanese prisons aren't as bad as in the states but they're pretty militaristic in general. So I don't think he'll get sodomized, but then again his victims ...

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Yes, I believe so, but yet, some are pretty good at conning you too.

You really have to think why these people (notice I use the word people and not animal) got the death sentence and not just life in prison for infinity.

You really have to remember that in the case of America that the trial is by peers not just some cop saying you should die.

Remember that the system isn't perfect and people like OJ Simpson do get away with things that they shouldn't but then again ... we are all still human.

I'm not saying that this system is right. It's not. But for now, I don't want people who have murdered walking around freely.

ahhh, let's hope for some social genius think of a way to deal with all of this.
 

thomas

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A very controversial and emotional topic, with a plethora of different opinions. I've refrained so far from posting my own opinion, but you can guess my standpoint towards capital punishment from the fact that I've started this thread. The prison issue is a totally different thing. There is no easy and clean solution.

As Moyashi-sensei said, keep these fora friendly and civil by respecting other people's opinions, even if they differ from yours. Sometimes it's difficult to see the other side of the coin.

Amen.
:)
 

kinjo

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@ thomas and Moyashi

Sorry if my posts read as a heated and emotional debate, that was never my intension, but I can only speak for myself and say It gave me alot to ponder over and I was surprised to find such a topic so debateable and so interesting, 🙂 (I feel as if I'v been "told off" lol)

I do agree without hesitation that all opinions are valid, they are all individual, and they should be treated with respect,

the friendly approach is the only approach

🙂
 

shintemaster

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I don't want to weigh in too heavily on this topic, I live in a country which ended capital punishment about 30 years ago, I'm happy that this is the case. I also agree that there needs to be changes to dealing with criminals. The theory behind punishment as social education is so obviously flawed that it is a joke. I'm not saying I know the answer/s, however SAYing that a situation is difficult and then not attempting to remedy it as a society is pathetic. There has not been any fundamental changes in the ways we deal with crimes for thousands of years. The record speaks for itself. At the very least we should be TRYING to find new ways to deal with crime...
 

Uncle Frank

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Bump !

An interesting topic you don't hear too much about.

Uncle Frank

 

Emoni

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I've done my part. My concience is cleared. As for the rest of you death penalty supporters, you're murderers in my eyes. Stay away from me. I don't want to live amongst murderers.

In my opinion if you support it you're just like the people who perform the punishment. That's my opinion.

I'll be that social genius.
😄

There is having an opinion, then there is being totally insensative to others who have had family, friends, and people they know murders, raped, and worse. The thought of you going up to a family who has just lost their child to a murderer who might have raped or tortured the kid beyond what you can image is both sick and cruel.

While I'm no fan of the death penalty, I'm old enough to know not to pick one hard side on a topic like this without having gone through a situation like this. I also know enough to be sensative and cautious about being self-rightous about the topic.

Opinions are perfectly ok, but your behavior in expressing them leaves a lot to be desired in the matter of maturity.

As for everything else, good topic and lots of interesting information here. This isn't something you hear about much in Japan, and it is something that does need to be talked about.
 

RockLee

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Emoni you big goof, did you bother to check the last time there was a post? Baaaaaaka ! :p

*edit* Besides Frank's post ;-)
 

Emoni

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Holy crap!!! Just saw the date... 2002?! Frank, jez... kind of a big bump there don't you think? I can understand keeping a topic going, but I think 4 years is pushing the limit a bit!
 
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