In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

Japan: Aum trials seen near completion as top court upholds life term for Katuya Takahashi

A wanted poster for three people believed to be connected to the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack
With the conclusion of all of the trials, judicial authorities will likely shift their focus to the possible execution of Aum founder Shoko Asahara

The trials related to Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult that executed the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, are close to ending after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a former cultist.

The top court's decision dated Thursday upheld a high court's life sentence on Katsuya Takahashi, 59, who was accused of murder in the sarin attack. He was the last of the former members still being tried.

With the conclusion of all of the trials, judicial authorities will likely shift their focus to the possible execution of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. Asahara was given the death penalty for masterminding the 1995 attack, among other charges.

In connection with the sarin attack and other crimes, death sentences have been finalized for 13 members of the cult, while life sentences have been finalized for 5 others.

Around 190 people with ties to the cult had been indicted over the sarin attack, which killed 13 people and injured thousands, as well as other cases.

The Tokyo High Court ruled in September 2016 that Takahashi, the driver for 1 of the cult members who released the poison in subway carriages, was aware that a toxic substance would be released.

The high court also found Takahashi guilty of 4 other attacks orchestrated by Aum.

Takahashi's ruling followed the case of ex-Aum member Naoko Kikuchi last month.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that acquitted Kikuchi over her role in a 1995 parcel bombing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.

Rejecting an appeal filed by prosecutors, the top court's First Petty Bench said in its decision dated earlier in the month that the Tokyo District Court's 2014 ruling that Kikuchi was guilty of assisting in attempted murder was based on an error, and that it endorses the Tokyo High Court's 2015 decision to overturn the lower court's verdict.

Her acquittal was finalized later.

Kikuchi, 46, was arrested in June 2012 after 17 years on the run. She was later indicted over her role in the parcel bombing in May 1995, 2 months after the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack orchestrated by Aum Shinrikyo killed 13 people and made more than 6,000 others ill.

In the bombing incident, members of Aum sent a parcel containing a bomb to the Metropolitan Government head office, resulting in an explosion that seriously injured a government employee.

Source: Japan Times, January 20, 2018

Rejected appeal closes the book on cult that gassed Tokyo subway

But Aum Shinrikyo has rebranded and is still active in Japan and beyond

The last of the court proceedings involving former members of Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, has ended more than 2 decades after criminal investigations began.

1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack
But the group itself remains active under a different name, with a presence across Japan and even in Russia.

The Supreme Court upheld the life sentence of ex-Aum member Katsuya Takahashi in a decision dated Thursday.

Takahashi was involved in the 1995 attack that killed 13 and injured more than 6,000, as well as attacks using the VX nerve agent and the kidnapping and murder of the head of a Tokyo notary office.

Aum-related court proceedings were thought to have concluded in 2011. But Takahashi and 2 other former members were arrested the following year. A total of 192 people have now been tried in connection with the group's crimes.

13 have been sentenced to death, including founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

The death penalty in Japan is typically not carried out until all accomplices have been tried. With Thursday's decision, the focus now shifts to when Asahara and others will be executed.

The group was also responsible for such crimes as the 1989 murder of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family, as well as a 1994 sarin attack in the city of Matsumoto. Aum lost its status as a religious entity following Asahara's arrest. It was later renamed Aleph and remains in operation, as does splinter group Hikari no Wa.

Roughly 30 Aleph members broke off into yet another splinter group in 2015, according to the Public Security Intelligence Agency. The 3 entities together have 34 facilities across 15 prefectures and 1,650 members in Japan. Another 460 members are said to be in Russia.

The 3 groups are believed to share the common goal of spreading Asahara's teachings. The intelligence agency considers them effectively a single entity.

Source: nikkei.com, January 20, 2018

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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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