The Kyoto District Court on Tuesday sentenced a 19-year-old youth to 5-8 years in prison for killing three and injuring seven after he drove his car into a group of elementary school children and some adults in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, on April 23, 2012.
The defendant, who cannot be named because he is a minor, was 18 at the time and had no driver’s license.
Yukihi Matsumura, 26, who was seven months pregnant, Mao Odani, 7, and Nao Yokoyama, 8, were declared dead several hours after the crash, which happened at around 8 a.m. as the children were being taken to school. Matsumura’s unborn baby also died in the accident.
According to police, the children and Matsumura were walking along the side of a curved one-way road when the minicar failed to make a left curve and plowed into them.
The court heard that the driver and his two passengers had been joyriding since the previous night. The driver admitted to police that he dozed off at the wheel.
The driver’s two passengers — two 18-year-old youths — were also arrested because they knew their friend did not have a driver’s license and did nothing about it. They are awaiting trial.
Prosecutors had called for the driver to be jailed for 10 years, the maximum sentence for a minor charged with negligent driving resulting in death. However, the presiding judge said the defendant had shown remorse, TBS reported.
After the trial, relatives of the victims held a press conference and expressed outrage at the lenient sentence and questioned the purpose of a judiciary system that imposes such a light sentence on someone guilty of taking three lives, TBS reported. The relatives wanted the charge to be one of reckless driving resulting in death, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. However, dozing off while driving is not considered reckless driving by the law.