OTSU, Shiga Pref. – A 35-year-old woman was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for killing two children last year in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture.
Zheng Yongshan, a Chinese national, was convicted of fatally stabbing Wakana Taketomo and Jin Sano, both age 5, on the morning of Feb. 17, 2006, while driving them to kindergarten with her daughter. She and the victims’ parents had made car-pool arrangements.
Prosecutors had demanded the death sentence, but presiding Judge Hidenori Nagai of the Otsu District court said Zheng was “in a state of diminished responsibility” at the time of the crime.
Zheng, who came to Japan in 1999 to marry a Japanese man, did not provide the court with any motive for the murders.
Chiefly at issue during the trial was her mental state.
Prosecutors had argued that the crimes were deliberate and she was of sound mind, considering that she chose a sharp kitchen knife for the stabbings and drove the children to a rarely used agricultural path.
Her counsel had called for acquittal or punishment lighter than the death penalty, arguing she was either mentally incompetent or only partly competent at the time of the crimes.
But Nagai determined that Zheng had “a strong intent to kill” the two children as she stabbed deep into their backs and chests numerous times. Zheng reportedly said during the investigation that her daughter had been bullied by the victims, but the judge dismissed that claim as groundless.
“One can only shudder at how the defendant treated people’s lives so lightly,” Nagai said.
Zheng’s lawyers appealed to a higher court, saying the punishment is too severe.
A mental exam had been conducted at the request of her lawyers. The results, adopted by the court as evidence at the end of August, found Zheng suffered from schizophrenia and was “in a state of diminished responsibility.”
Prosecutors appealed the results and asked the court to conduct another exam, but the demand was rejected.
Zheng pleaded not guilty when her trial opened Feb. 2.
“I stabbed sand dolls, not humans,” she said.
But on Sept. 11 she offered an apology, saying during questioning in court: “I regret (what happened). I’m sorry.”