On January 4 1989, Junko Furuta died at the hands of four teenage boys who kidnapped her on November 25 1988, as she walked home from school in Misato, Tokyo in Japan that afternoon. For forty-four days they tortured her, raped her, stubbed cigarettes out on her, and beat her. What is more horrifying as that this all happened in the home of one of the boys (Minato) with his parents knowledge. Junko asked them for help, but they failed to do so claiming they were afraid as one of the boys was involved in gang. Instead, they enabled and allowed horrific crimes to occur.
Her body was eventually discovered, encased in concrete in an oil barrel buried in a disused factory in Koto, Japan 15 months later when workers were on the site. The records of the case have been sealed as the perpetrators were all minors at the time of the crime, but were allegedly tried as adults. The courts tried to give them anonymity due to their age, but for such horrific crimes a newspaper deemed them not worthy and a published them:
- Hiroshi Miyano – 18 year old at the time of the crime. Changed his name to Hiroshi (Hiro)Yokoyama and was the ringleader.
- Jō Ogura – 18 year old at the time of the crime. Changed his name to Jō Kamisaku (神作譲)
- Shinji Minato – 16 year old at the time of the crime. Changed his name to Nobuharu Minato.
- Yasushi Watanabe – 17 year old at the time of the crime. Changed his name to Kojo Sato.
Other DNA evidence was found on the body; Kōichi Ihara and Tetsuo Nakamura had traces of their DNA and semen in Junko, but were only charged with rape. According to other reports there were others (100 plus) that knew of Junko’s plight, either through neighbors hearing things, or other men taking turns in torturing her. So why did no one help her? Is humanity so depraved that crimes such as these are accepted, or can be ignored so easily?
In addition into looking into this case, because of the Japanese translations the facts are unclear; thirteen boys and three girls were involved, but not all were arrested due to lack of evidence. One source that has translated the few records released report one boy (Ihara) did tell his older brother of what had happened, who then told his parents. The police were sent to the Minato house to investigate where the parents said they could look around, but chose not follow this up. This was 16 days after her abduction, and surely they police should have checked and reported this. They were sacked during the trial, but that doesn’t inspire confidence in law enforcement when a girl is missing and they have a lead they ignored. It was this boy’s old statement that eventually helped convict those involved.
The sentences were also lenient having pled guilty to reduced charge of ‘committing bodily injury’ that resulted in death rather than murder. This I see as wrong, as they had no intent to free her, thus there was actus reus (physical act) and mea culpa (intent to cause harm), and was murder. One defines murder as a premeditated and deliberate act to end the life of another human being. The ringleader got 20 years and the others between 5-10 years, and they had the audacity to appeal. The judge increased the sentences on appeal, but was that enough? Shouldn’t they have received life sentences for a premeditated crime? All are now free and is that justice, and how safe are the public from these criminals? The judicial system is supposed to protect society, and by imposing such lenient sentences, there is little deterrent. Tabloid papers follow their every move, including those who were involved but never convicted. Gender aside, one wonders how three girls could have been involved and not tried to help Junko? Perhaps they were threatened, but given the nature of the perpetrators they could have become the next Junko—surely they must have considered that?
Although this story has been reported on blogs, and forums there are several reasons for my wanting to discuss this. First of all we must question the morality of humanity; the parents of one of the perpetrators were aware of all the activities and chose to do nothing, even when the police visited their home. They knew it was wrong, so how can and why do people choose to enable crimes? Secondly, the boys were conscious of the actions and knew what they were doing was criminal and morally wrong. How can we as a society overcome this, when people know the difference between right and wrong, but still choose the immoral path? The deterrent of prison didn’t work, and perhaps there was the arrogance of thinking they wouldn’t get caught? Next we can look at those who did try to help, but the police failed to pursue a lead. Is this a lesson for the the authorities to be accountable, and throws up questions as to why no one followed up the lead especially as it was in the area? It also begs the question as to why those who suspected or were involved did not have a moral conscience to give an anonymous tip off? That would have been the right and moral thing to do, especially as the parents of Minato claimed they were afraid of the gangs their son was friends with. Their fear is not an excuse or reason, and as adults they should have be leading by example. One should never be afraid to help others as long as it doesn’t endanger themselves.
The judicial system has failed Junko, as the majority of culprits either served less than a decade in prison, and others were not charged. While I am against the death penalty, there must be a harsher punishment for this heinous crime of torture and murder. A life sentence should mean life. In addition those who were involved should be publicly named and shamed as punishment. In the case of law, it’s often what can be proved rather than whether one is actually guilty of the crime or who can be convicted as guilty in the eyes of the law. One can never have an excuse to choose the immoral path and expect no consequences. While countries will have differing laws and judicial systems, the universal act of murder is one that no civilized state should condone. For once the tabloids are doing a service to humanity (by publicly following them) and ensuring that those who were involved in this crime will always be looking over their shoulders, and be judged for their actions. In a small way they are protecting society from those who know right from wrong and preventing them from harming anyone else.
What is true justice for Junko? I feel all those who were involved or complicit should have their freedoms taken away for life as punishment. Maybe having to live with what they have done will be their punishment, but is that justice? One thing we can all learn from this tragic story is that as humans we morally have a civic duty to help those in need. While many of the perpetrators may have depraved minds, there were those who could and should have helped, but didn’t. They are as guilty as those who carried out the crimes. R.I.P. Junko.