Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In the wake of the unfolding Jun Hase murder case in Kobe, your story about ex-convict Hitoshi Fujiwara (“Former convict publishes way to normal life - in English,” July 8) gives the public even more food for thought about the nature and applications of, and consequences of, crime and punishment.
Whatever else Fujiwara has done in and with his life - his success in ‘going straight” - one truth remains: He is a murderer. When he is dead and gone he can e remembered for this at least as much as for anything else, and some might say that he should be remembered for this more than for anything else.
Paying one’s debt to society through imprisonment or some other way, rehabilitation through therapy or incarceration, and even forgiveness by society as a whole as well as by individual victims and victims’ families does not erase guilt. Guilt remains and nothing that comes after malfeasance can change the fact of the wrongdoing to begin with.
In the case of the Hase murder the young age of the suspect does nothing to mitigate the magnitude of his guilt, if indeed he is guilty. In human society, age is frequently successfully used to mitigate punishment and after the completion of punishment the matter of guilt is too quickly diminished in the collective imagination.
If the teenaged suspect in Kobe is convicted of the Hase murder then his name should be published so that the public can know him as a murderer throughout the rest of his life, and even after his death. The same is true of Fujiwara.
Published on Sunday, July 13, 1997 as “Crime and Punishment.”
The killing of Jun Hase caused a firestorm in the media, politics and the public. It was chilling and horrific in a manner hardly imagined in Japan before. The juvenile suspect was never publicly identified because of his age. The police handling of the case got off to a typically farcical start. The police thought they were dealing with an adult based on the sophistication of kanji that the boy killer used in taunting letters written and sent to the police department (á là Jack the Ripper).
My objection to the Hitoshi Fujiwara story is part philosophical and part a matter of linguistics and nomenclature. I do not want to deny true rehabilitation and repentance by a convict. But I do deny that since Fujiwara’s sentence is fulfilled he has ceased to be a murderer. The question, even after serving his prison sentence is, “Did he commit murder or didn’t he? He did? Well, what do we call those who commit murder? We call them murderers.” I object to the pretense that Mr. Fujiwara is no longer a murder because it does a disservice to him as well as to us. It is an insult to us, to his victim and, in a way, to Mr. Fujiwara himself. Pretenidng differently is plain dishonesty.