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Toshihiko HASEGAWA





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: To collect insurance money
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: November 1979 - December 1983
Date of birth: 1950
Victims profile: Men
Method of murder: ???
Location: Aichi Prefecture, Japan
Status: Executed by hanging at the Nagoya Detention Center on December 27, 2001

Mass Murderer executed

Mainichi Shimbun

Dec. 27, 2001

A killer on death row since the mid-'80s were executed Thursday, Justice Ministry sources said.

Thursday's executions ended a 13-month period since the last death sentence was carried out.

They were also the first executions to take place since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi assumed office in April.

Toshihiko Hasegawa, 51, conspired with a friend to take out life insurance policies on three men they knew. From November 1979 to December 1983, he killed the three men and claim massive payouts on the policies he had taken out on them.

Hasegawa was executed at the Nagoya Detention Center.


Unmasking Capital Punishment: Victim's kin questions point of executions

January 2009

As his body lay in the coffin, the man bore no traces of his agonizing death. Instead, he had a subtle smile.

The execution of death row inmate Toshihiko Hasegawa was carried out on Dec. 27, 2001, when he was 51. Two days later, his funeral was performed at a church in Nagoya. About 70 people attended the funeral, including Masaharu Harada, 61.

Akio, Masaharu's younger brother, was killed in January 1983 when he was 30 by Hasegawa and his accomplices. Akio was employed by Hasegawa as a truck driver. Hasegawa had taken out a life insurance policy on Akio and had him killed in collusion with two accomplices to collect the money. Hasegawa and one of the accomplices also killed two other people.

In his testimony at a district court hearing, Harada said he hoped Hasegawa would receive the death penalty, saying, "I believe there can never be any other punishment other than the death penalty."

After Hasegawa was sentenced by the district court, he began writing Harada letters of apology.

Harada, however, would throw the letters away unopened. Only once did he unfold one of the letters.

As his anguish over the tragedy faded, he decided to reply to Hasegawa.

"I am sorry for not to replying to you for so long," Harada wrote. The number of letters from Hasegawa increased, with some containing drawings of religious subjects that he drew "to express my feelings of atonement."

In the summer of 1993, just before Hasegawa's sentence was finalized, Harada visited the Nagoya Detention House.

Up until the moment he entered the interview room, Harada felt he might lose his temper with Hasegawa.

"I'm incredibly glad that you are so kind as to come here to meet me!" the death-row convict said to Harada.

Hasegawa seemed filled with joy while conveying his gratitude. Harada found his anger dwindling. Even after the death sentence against Hasegawa was finalized, Harada visited the detention house three times under special permits to see the convict.

Harada quoted Hasegawa as saying on one occasion, "Should I be allowed to get out of here, I would like to give your mother a massage, as I have learned massage techniques in my cell."

As Harada listened to Hasegawa during these visits, he came to feel that he was truly repentant and deeply cared about the bereaved families of the victims of the murders he was involved in.

"Although I had no intention of forgiving him, I wanted him to live and continue conveying his atonement with all his heart," Harada said. "My mind changed as I became aware that nothing worthwhile could come from his execution."

Harada has more than 100 letters and several drawings made with a ballpoint pen from Hasegawa.

In 2007, Harada founded an organization to encourage dialogue between crime victims and imprisoned criminals.

Once, when he interviewed a convict sentenced to die, Harada advised him to apologize from the bottom of his heart to his victims.


Death Penalty Does Not Equal Atonement

by Masaharu Harada

Already, 3 years have passed since Toshihiko Hasegawa was executed for killing my younger brother for insurance money in 1983. Although the murder took place more than 20 years ago, it continues to haunt me.

In April, a basic law to protect the rights and interests of crime victimsÁcame into force. Looking back on the anguish and suffering I endured, I believe the enactment of this law is a definite step forward.

But I am distressed that the basic law was enacted in relation to the revised Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code that incorporated measures to enforce more severe punishment on offenders. According to the Justice Ministry, the revision was made because the old laws "did not agree with the perceptions of crime victims." I, however, am strongly against imposing more severe punishment.

As one who lost a family member to crime, I made repeated pleas to hold off carrying out Hasegawa's death sentence. I personally met the justice minister in 2001 and submitted a written petition. Even so, the execution went ahead at the end of that year. My opinion and feelings were completely ignored. It seems unreasonable that officials of the same government office are now moving to impose more severe punishment "in consideration for the feelings of victims."

At the time of the murder, Hasegawa was my brother's employer. During the initial trial, I told the prosecution that I felt he deserved only the death penalty.

The incident that took my brother's life also shattered my everyday existence. I blamed everything on Hasegawa and I felt my hatred grow daily. But about 10 years later, I started thinking that I should learn more about the death penalty system. I also found myself thinking strongly that I wanted to meet Hasegawa and ask him why he killed my brother.

When I first met him, he said: "I am sorry for what I did." I had previously read his words of apology in his letters. But actually hearing him say those words carried more weight.

Looking at the man uttering words of apology and trying to atone for his sin, I felt a sense of comfort and healing for the first time. That is not to say that I forgave him. But by meeting him, I felt as though I had finally found the key to setting myself free.

When a person kills another, how can the killer make up for the sin?

I don't have the answer. But when I heard that Hasegawa was drawing pictures as a way to atone, I wanted to believe him.

It is my belief that people can compensate for their wrongdoings only when they are alive. The death penalty is too simplistic a way to settle crimes. As far as I am concerned, Hasegawa's execution did nothing to put my mind at ease. On the contrary, I felt that it deprived me of my chance to get back on my feet again.

I think bereaved families should be given the right to personally meet "perpetrators." But under the existing system, once the death sentence is finalized, they are virtually unable to make contact.

It contradicts the principle that people are innocent until they are proven guilty, because it is only after their guilt is established that suspects can be considered perpetrators.

Furthermore, the court is not venue where defendants can speak freely about what they think and how they really feel. I think the current system should be revised to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment. That would allow families who lost loved ones to crime to meet with the offenders.

When I gives street speeches calling for an end to the death penalty, I am sometimes approached by people who ask if I have ever considered the feelings of bereaved families. Do people think all crime victims want perpetrators to be put to death?

I was also asked why I use the honorific "kun" to address the person who killed my brother. I felt like asking the person, "Do you hate him more than I do?"

People tend to decide what victims are feeling to suit themselves and in the process come to the conclusion that supporting more severe punishments is a gesture of sympathy. This type of thinking makes me feel uneasy. Rather, I want people to listen to each individual victim to understand how each one of us thinks.

I want society and government policies to reflect these various ideas as well as the true feelings of crime victims and their families.

(source: Opinion; Masaharu Harada-- The author is a company employee; Asahi Shimbun)



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