August 27th, 2010
10:19 AM ET

Japan reveals long-secretive execution process

Red tape marks the trap door through which an inmate falls as he or she is hanged.

Japan, one of the few industrialized countries with the death penalty, showed one of its execution chambers to the media for the first time Friday.

Reporters were shown the death chamber at the Tokyo Detention Facility, one of seven used across the country, according to a report in the Mainichi Daily News.

Pressing a button in another room releases the trap door.

The unprecedented media access was ordered by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who after witnessing the deaths of two condemned prisoners last month, said she wanted to have a national debate on capital punishment in Japan, Mainchi reported. Chiba has previously spoken against the death penalty.

Execution in Japan is carried out by hanging.

The chamber showed to the media on Friday had no noose suspended from the ceiling but showed a trap door outlined in red. The condemned fall to a room below the execution chamber where their deaths are confirmed.

Reporters were not shown that room out of "consideration for the inmates' family and wardens," according to the Mainichi report.

A room where inmates are told they are about to be executed and can meet with a chaplain.

They did see other areas involved in the execution process, including the room where a button is pushed to release the trap door, a room where the condemned can get religious last rites or an entry room where inmates are told they are about to be executed.

In an accompanying article in Mainichi, prison officials described Japan’s execution process, long shrouded in secrecy.

The two men executed on July 28, Ogata Hidenori, 33, and Shinozawa Kazuo, 59, were the first put to death since the August 2009 elections in Japan, according to Amnesty International. The organization says 107 prisoners remain on death row in Japan.

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Filed under: Death Penalty • Japan • Justice
soundoff (610 Responses)
  1. Stiches

    Sheet happens!

    August 27, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hmmmmm....

    Maybe death by a electrified potato peeler and lots of alcohol over several hours would be even better with a live snaked diped in habanero salsa up the poop shute at the same time, while extracting fingernails one by one with electrified pliers...cool the poor basturd will be praying to go to hell before it ends.

    And post it on youtube, i would bring popcorn!

    August 27, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rooster

    A worse form of death would be to put the person in a room and force them to watch Rosie O'Donnell 24/7.
    Leave a razor on the table so they could end it all!

    August 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. zounds

    Re: "Decapitated."

    August 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lydia

    Capital punishment is necessary in every country, but cruel, brutal killings like stoning are not acceptable.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    Did a quick google search of executed innocents. Assumedly these are from fairly biased sources with an anti-death penalty agenda and would be the most convincing stories presented in the most compelling light. I found a couple lists that have maybe eight in the last 20 years and obviously more from the earlier part of the century. Most of the the doubts arise from criminal accomplices / witnesses who later recanted claiming undo pressure or a juror who later says "I'm not so sure." Some would say...what a hard thing to have to say, they must be telling the truth, but some of it reads to me as the easier thing to say. If you had to give testimony that convicted a murderer and you lived in the community with their family...wouldn't it be easier to say "The Police made me say it" than to say "I stood up and told the truth because your brother was a murderer." Isn't it easier for a juror to disclaim a decision that resulted in a person's death to say "Ohhh if this fact was presented I would have never made this decision with a hard consequence." Not saying it isn't possible, just easy to see other way.

    The other thing I noticed..a lot of these questionable convictions are early eighties crimes and early nineties executions. A point people against the death penalty seem to rush to...A lot of incarcerated people have also been released due to DNA evidence. That being said, the issue at hand is conviction and execution going forward. I say if you have credible, uncompromised (no plea bargain) witnesses and physical evidence (in particular DNA)... you can be comfortable with an execution. Improve the criminal justice system, but don't take away it's tools.

    Also, on the whole issue of cost to execute versus cost to house, a few things. I think regardless of which costs more, the issue is not the total sum but how the money is spent. In prosecuting/defending someone you are spending a dollar to an acceptable purpose...seeking out justice. Let's say this is 1-2 million dollars. Housing someone who you have convicted of murder, let's say it is .5-1 million is a dollar you are spending to sustain someone that society agrees, assuming their guilt, society no longer wants as a member. Those are bad dollars spent. Also, and I admit this is bad economic theory, but prison dollars are for real resources...food, electricity, labor, medicine...things that if not allocated to the criminal could be allocated to another person. Justice system dollars...court costs...attorneys time...honestly...would most prosecutors or defenders or judges be doing something else with their time that has anywhere near as much value assigned? I don't think society is really missing their resources anywhere else when they go through appeals. It is not as transferrable.

    I don't think execution's purpose is deterrent (I think it deters me from killing people, but probably not the people most prone to kill). I don't think execution's purpose is retribution. Having never been a relative of a victim of homicide, I am not sure if would make me feel better. Probably would depend on the murder. I know for the biggest wrongs I have suffered, I have been best served by forgiving rather than seeking retribytion.

    I think execution's purpose is to serve as the bottom line to the social contract. If you steal, you will risk a certain punishment. If you remove another person(s) from society, you will also be removed. Not because it will scare others out of doing it and not because it makes everyone feel better but because this is why society exists, to maintain a certain order.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. T.Jefferson

    "the death penalty does not deter crime" well how do we know, there are thousands of murfers and murderers) every year and how many executions? A few dozen? The death penalty, if it was swift and sure would be a deterrent. It has deterred me.

    August 27, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jimbob

    the death penalty should be eliminated from every place on earth.

    August 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lucy

    too cruel....

    August 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. George

    Opium overdose. People would be clamoring to be executed.

    August 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DeathToMurders

    Murder is a unique crime. The argument that it is cheaper to have life sentences is bogus. In no other crime is the cost of punishment even mentioned. Murder is the one crime that cannot be "undone". The victim is going to remain dead no matter what happens to the murderer. In most crimes, the victim can refuse to complain. Only in murder is the victim shared with society and thus society as a whole decides to prosecute. A murder tears a hole in the fabric of society and thus execution is a fitting punishment. The argument that execution is wrong because it might be applied to person wrongly could be made for any crime. The time spent in prison can never be given back if someone is innocent. Expecting a perfect justice system is impossible. Innocent people are prosecuted and jailed all the time. If the criteria is that justice be perfect, then no one would ever be convicted. Conviction require "beyond reasonable doubt", not "no doubt". Since life in prison does not mean "life in prison", most murders will eventually get out of jail. How many want to live next door to a murder?

    August 28, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. hmmmmm

    again so many people/children are homeless and with out food but we house and feed murderers and rapist.

    August 28, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    Execute the guilty and their defense attorney too.

    August 28, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. lisa

    "An eye for an eye," if you do your historical research, was never meant to say that you had to take an eye for an eye. It was intended to restrain punishment so that society did not exact outrageous penalties for minor infractions. One could not take MORE than an eye for an eye.

    I understand the anger and the belief that murderers deserve their punishment. They probably do. But that doesn't mean we should become killers because they deserve to be killed. None of us should want unnecessary killing. I don't want anyone to be killed on my behalf, and that's what execution is. It is a killing on the public's behalf. NOT the behalf of the victim's survivors. Criminal cases are the People vs. the killer.

    I'm not disagreeing with the desire to see them dead. I'm saying that, unlike murderers, we are bigger than our desires.

    August 28, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. Money

    Death by bukkake!

    August 28, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
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