HI Blog. I made the case last May, in a special DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER on criminal justice and policing of NJ, that NJ get special (as in negative) treatment by courts and cops. An article I included from the Japan Times mentioned that a case of a NJ man killed in a bar “was likely to draw leniency” in criminal court. It did. The killer essentially got off last September. Here’s an article about it, from Charleston, WV. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
That special NEWSLETTER: http://www.debito.org/?p=1652
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Prosecutors in Japan have decided not appeal the sentence in the murder conviction of a man placed on five years’ probation for murdering Charleston native and West Virginia University graduate Scott Tucker.
“Prosecutors decided not to even present the appeal,” said Kenneth Tucker II, Scott Tucker’s brother. “They said the witness’s testimony was strong enough not to appeal.”
Tucker’s wife and family had hoped prosecutors would appeal the sentencing in an attempt to get the man jail time. But prosecutors said Thursday they would not pursue an appeal before the two-week window to file ends on Monday.
On Sept. 8, Atsushi Watanabe, 29, was sentenced to three years in prison or five years’ probation for killing Scott Tucker. Under Japanese law, probation in murder cases can begin immediately so Watanabe will serve five years probation rather than three years in prison, David Yoshida, who attended the trial with Tucker’s wife, Yumiko Yamakazi, said previously.
Yamakazi is weighing her options in pursuing a civil case against Watanabe, Kenneth Tucker said.
“Unfortunately we just have to live with it and go on,” he said. “I know my brother was a Christian and I hope to see him again someday.”
Tucker, 47, had been drinking at a bar before going into Bullets, a club located beside his home in downtown Tokyo.
The club was known for its parties, noise and fights, and Tucker went there because he wanted the place to quiet down, according to witness statements.
At the time, officials with Tokyo police told Japan Today, an English-language newspaper, that Tucker appeared very drunk and acted violently toward customers, at times striking a boxer’s pose.
“With the help of alcohol he went down there to tell them,” said David Yoshida, who attended the trial with Yamakazi.
Yoshida, a Baptist missionary, served as an interpreter for Ken Tucker when he went to Japan after his brother died.
According to Yoshida and Yamakazi, witnesses told the court that Scott pushed a couple of people who fell on the floor and were not hurt.
Watanabe then kicked him in the groin and got Tucker in a chokehold, crushing his Adam’s apple.
In court, Watanabe said he felt his life was in danger. Watanabe is 5 feet, 9 inches and weighs 154 pounds. Scott was 5 feet, 9 inches and weighed 242 pounds.
The courtroom was flooded with supporters for Watanabe, Yoshida said.
Earlier this week, Tucker’s family sent a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States. They hope that he will look into the case.
“We do not understand how it is possible that the two detectives (Sergeant Abe and Megumi Akita, who assured us the evidence pointed to a deliberate and brutal murder), were not in court because they had been re-assigned or possibly promoted; nor do we understand the absence of the original prosecutor at the trial,” Kenneth Tucker wrote in the letter, provided to the Gazette. “We also don’t understand how our family’s concerns were not admitted into evidence during the court proceeding.”
The conviction rate for those accused of murder in Japan is 99.95 percent, Michael Griffith, an international criminal defense attorney who has handled many cases in Japan said previously.
Japanese police routinely hold suspects for 23 days without seeing a judge, Griffith said. During that time they can interrogate them daily, for as much as 12 hours at a time.
“The lawyers over there aren’t defense lawyers. I’d categorize them as sentencing experts,” Griffith said previously.
Once a case goes to sentencing, the convicted often get more lenient sentences than in the U.S., he said. People convicted for murder often get under 10 years, he said.
Reach Gary Harki at gha…@wvgazette.com or 348-5163.