Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Japan: 'Black Widow' sentenced to death for several murders

Chisako Kakehi, 70, dubbed the "Black Widow"
TOKYO - A Japanese court on Tuesday sentenced to death a one-time millionairess dubbed the "Black Widow", who tricked elderly lovers into drinking cyanide and pocketed millions in insurance payouts and inheritance.

Kyoto District Court condemned Chisako Kakehi, 70, to the gallows for the murder of three men -- including a husband -- and the attempted murder of another, ending a high-profile case that has gripped the country.

More than 560 people queued for 51 seats in the courtroom to witness the outcome of the marathon trial, which lasted 135 days.

It was the second-longest court case involving a jury since Japan introduced a joint judge-jury system in 2009.

Kakehi became notorious after using the poison cyanide to dispatch a number of elderly men she was involved with, drawing comparisons with the spider that kills its mate after copulation.

"The accused made the victims drink a cyanide compound with a murderous intention in all the four cases," Judge Ayako Nakagawa told the court, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Nakagawa rejected defense lawyers' arguments that Kakehi was not criminally liable because she was suffering from dementia. The court ruled that she did not suffer dementia when she committed the last crime in December 2013.

Prosecutors said she killed the men after they made her the beneficiary of life assurance policies that ran into hundreds of millions of yen.

She reportedly amassed one billion yen in payouts over 10 years but subsequently lost most of the fortune through unsuccessful financial trading.

Kakehi first married when she was 24, but after her husband died in 1994, she had relationships with many men, mostly elderly or ill. She met some through dating agencies, where she reportedly stipulated that prospective partners should be wealthy (with an annual income of more than 10 million yen) and childless.

Kakehi, who is also known as "The Poison Lady", is said to have stashed some of her cyanide in a plant pot she later threw out.

The poison was found in the body of at least two of the men she was involved with and police reportedly found traces of cyanide in the rubbish at her Kyoto home.

They also found paraphernalia for administering drugs and medical books at an apartment she kept south of Kyoto.

Kakehi initially refused to speak when her trial began in June but later stunned the court by admitting killing her fourth husband in 2013.

"I killed him... because he gave other women tens of millions of yen but did not give me anything," she told the court, according to Jiji Press.

The accused earlier told judges she was ready to be hanged.

"Even if I were executed tomorrow, I would die smiling," Kakehi told judges.

But her lawyers reportedly plan to appeal to a higher court, suggesting the high-profile trial could yet drag on.

Source: Agence France-Presse, November 7, 2017

‘Black widow’ murder case casts shadow on lonely hearts among Japan’s elderly

Elderly couple, Japan
KYOTO – The sensational case of a serial killer, dubbed Japan’s “black widow” and accused of killing elderly men — all of whom she met through a matchmaking service — has cast a shadow over a growing trend of elderly Japanese people seeking partners.

The case of 70-year-old Chisako Kakehi — who repeatedly met, dated and married elderly men, including her four victims — came at a time when elderly people have become more and more interested in finding partners amid a rapidly aging population and the spread of nuclear families in the country.

Kakehi was given the death sentence by the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday for the murders of her 75-year-old husband Isao and common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, as well as for the attempted murder of her acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide between 2007 and 2013.

Kakehi had registered with a matchmaking service in the hope of meeting wealthy men with an annual income of more than ¥10 million ($87,900). She married or was associated with more than 10 men and inherited about ¥1 billion, though she eventually fell into debt.

But there is a view that Kakehi’s case may not deter elderly people from falling prey to similar schemes, apparently due to an anticipated rise in elderly people living alone and no conclusive measures to prevent a repeat of such incidents.

“I will stay with you for the rest of my life,” Kakehi wrote in an email to her husband, which was read during her trial. The email was sent to him before his death. It was apparent that immediately after meeting Kakehi through matchmaking, he was smitten by her charms and determined to marry her.

At a court hearing, a man in his 80s who said he dated Kakehi around the time of her husband’s death took the stand as a witness.

“My wife died, and living alone was tough, so I wanted to live together (with Kakehi),” the man recounted.

The two met through matchmaking, and in their fourth meeting, he entrusted her with his house key. He eventually broke up with her, at the warning of local police, who found the circumstances of her husband’s death suspicious.

Still, the man had good words to say about Kakehi, describing her as a “good woman.”

According to a survey by a major marriage-hunting service company, there has been a rise in the number of people of middle age or older who have remained unmarried through their lives but are looking for partners. Of that age group, many men aged 65 and older use websites and marriage consultation centers.

The company has also started a new service catering to middle-aged and elderly people in recent years.

Novelist Hiroyuki Kurokawa, who wrote a book in 2014 about a woman who was angling for inheritance by repeatedly marrying and dating elderly men, said, “At marriage consultation centers, elderly men are popular.”

Kurokawa, 68, discussed the psyche of elderly men, who have a short time left and assets to spare.

“A man, who lives on his own and far from his family, would want (someone) to be with him, even if he knew his partner is only out for his money,” said Kurokawa, a recipient of the renowned Naoki Prize for popular fiction.

While the case brought to light the tactics of a scheming wife and serves as a cautionary tale, Kurokawa warned that there is no “preventive measure” to ensure that a similar incident does not occur.

“Elderly people living alone will increase due to a longer average life span. Those becoming second wives are also on the rise,” he said.

Source: Japan Times, November 7, 2017

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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