A hikikomori who murdered the sister who had helped support his 30 years of reclusion has been given a 20 year prison sentence for murder, with the judge ruling that the 16-year sentence sought by the prosecution was too lenient and dismissing the defence’s arguments that it was all the fault of Asperger’s syndrome out of hand.
The unemployed 42-year-old man had lived as a hikikomori with the support of his older sister, then 46, for some 30 years, but started to blame his sister for his failure to end his reclusive dependency.
His unfounded resentment towards her culminated in him brutally stabbing her to death with a kitchen knife, resulting in him being arrested and tried for murder.
His lawyer rather optimistically sought a suspended sentence and probation instead of jail, arguing that he could not be held wholly responsible for the killing as his condition – he supposedly suffers congenital Asperger’s syndrome, a mental condition similar to autism and characterised by extremes of introversion – caused him anger management problems.
The Osaka court judge presiding was having none of it, and in fact thought the 16 year sentence the prosecution sought was too light, and sentenced him to 20 instead:
“After he had bodily and financially exhausted his elder sister, he irrationally opted to murder her.
The accused has displayed insufficient remorse for his crime and should he re-enter society there is concern he might re-offend in similar fashion.”
However, the judge did acknowledge his condition as a mitigating factor – although this merely worked against him as the judge suspected he would be unable to cope alone after killing the only person willing to take care of him:
“Your family does not want you living with them so you have nowhere to go, there is much worry about you re-offending. Keeping you imprisoned as long as the law allows will help protect public order.”
The defence plans to appeal the verdict, calling it “regrettable” that the judge did not buy their arguments that it was all the fault of Asperger’s syndrome and that he should be released, and chastising the judge for “basing a verdict on prejudice.”
Legal experts are nonplussed as well, complaining that “it is usual for the involvement of a mental illness to result in a reduction in sentencing, so there is a certain sense that the verdict is out of place.”
A mental illness charity also butted in to criticise the verdict:
“He did not regret his crime insufficiently, he merely did not understand what he was being told. Our worst fears about the lack of understanding of lay judges [a quasi-jury] have come to pass.”
However, as many mental health professionals do not even consider Asperger’s an “illness” and there is apparently as yet no history of it turning “sufferers” into sororicidal maniacs, even fellow sufferers may be none too sympathetic at their supposedly benign condition being stained with the stigma of bloody murder.