The altercation began as a family argument before ending in tragedy. The elderly grandfather faces 5 years in jail.
An 88-year-old man in Japan has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for fatally stabbing his 16-year-old granddaughter, an act of violence he claimed he didn’t remember because he has Alzheimer’s. In a court in western Japan last month, Susumu Tomizawa, 88, admitted to killing his granddaughter Tomomi, 16, nearly two years ago but said, he doesn't remember doing it. Tomizawa has Alzheimer's, a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder that destroys neurons and shrinks regions of the brain. In court, his lawyers argued he should not be held criminally responsible because his illness causes dementia, a condition marked by multiple cognitive deficits such as memory loss, reported CNN. Tomizawa was also heavily inebriated while stabbing his granddaughter.
The man reportedly argued with his granddaughter Tomomi on the night of her murder in September 2020 in western Japan’s Fukui prefecture. He then took a 17-centimeter-long kitchen knife from a storage unit in his house and went into her bedroom, where he repeatedly stabbed her in the neck, a court heard last month. Tomizawa admitted in court to having stabbed his granddaughter but said that he doesn't remember doing it. The court ruled the statement saying, he knew the weight of his actions citing in part a phone call he made to his eldest son about Tomomi’s bloodied body on the floor just after the stabbing, reported VICE.
“It’s not often you hear about a grandchild being the victim of a violent crime,” said Katsuhiro Ueki, a Fukui prefecture police officer who investigates murders. Tomomi began living with her grandfather about a month before she was murdered, after fighting and falling out with her own parents. The two reportedly did not get along, and the 16-year-old considered moving out. Tomizawa had been drinking heavily the night he stabbed her to death, the court heard.
A week before the ruling, the court assigned a doctor to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Tomizawa. The doctor, Hiroki Nakagawa, confirmed that the grandfather did have Alzheimer's disease based on his past medical records, but added that his condition likely didn’t influence the crime, according to Fukui Television, a local news station. “He had a motive for committing the crime, such as quarreling with Tomomi, and his actions were purposeful and consistent with his intent to kill, as he stabbed her in the neck,” said Nakagawa. Nevertheless, the court handed Tomizawa a reduced sentence because of his illness. Japan punishes murder with the death penalty or life imprisonment. The minimum sentence is five years.
Jason Frizzell, a psychologist who specializes in criminal court cases, said such cases are extremely complex and not black and white as many may see it. "How much of their conduct can we reasonably explain through the disease itself as opposed to other motivations such as anger or retribution," said Frizzell, who also questioned the morality of convicting Tomizawa, an 88-year-old man. "How do we effectively or reasonably prosecute someone who may be fully debilitated by their illness in just a few more years? Is being compassionate toward a convicted person with dementia at odds with the community's perception of justice?" asked Frizzell.
Cover Image Credits: GettyImages | Picture by Naotoshinkai