“I asked you for a fair judgment. But this is not fair at all. You will regret this for the rest of your life.” These were the words of Satoru Nomura when he became the first senior yakuza boss to be sentenced to death by the Fukuoka District Court on August 24, 2021. On Tuesday, that decision was overturned by the Fukuoka High Court. It instead handed down a life sentence for the 77-year-old leader of the Kudo-kai, a gang based in Kitakyushu. He was found not guilty in connection with the killing of a former fisheries cooperative chief.

The Case Against Satoru Nomura

Nomura was accused of orchestrating four attacks between 1998 and 2014. In the first of those four crimes, a 70-year-old former leader of a local fisheries cooperative was shot dead in Kitakyushu. The second occurred in 2012 when a former Fukuoka prefectural police officer was shot in the same city. The following year, a female nurse was stabbed at a clinic where Nomura was seeking medical attention. The final case involved the stabbing of a relative of the former fisheries cooperative. According to prosecutors, Satoru and his second-in-command, Fumio Tanoue, sanctioned all four attacks. Tanoue was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.

That decision was upheld by the Fukuoka High Court. After originally pleading not guilty, Tanoue admitted he ordered two assaults. He claimed he was alone in doing so, though prosecutors believe this was just an attempt to protect his boss. Nomura, meanwhile, continued to deny his involvement in all four attacks. While the court ruled against him in three cases, the presiding judge, Futoshi Ichikawa, said he could not recognize Nomura’s complicity in the murder of the former fisheries cooperative chief through logical or empirical reasoning. The suspect reportedly remained expressionless as the judge read out that his death sentence had been overturned.

In 2012, Kudo-kai was designated as a particularly dangerous gangster group after being implicated in several shootings against law-abiding citizens.

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