Drunk Driving Tragedy Sentence Only 7 and a Half Years

January 9, 2008

The story in a nutshell… a drunk driver speeding hit a family’s wagon from behind and pushed the wagon off the road and into Hakata Bay in Fukuoka. The 3 children aged 4, 3, and 1 died from drowning. The mother and father lived. Prosecutors asked for a 25 year sentence, but the court decided that although he was drunk, his driving was not necessarily impaired. He was not even sentence for reckless driving because the court ruled that he was distracted.

Even though stricter laws against drunk driving (which doesn’t have as big a stigma as in the US) were enacted, the judge decided to take a very liberal interpretation of drunk by considered how well he was able to drive and whether he hit the brakes before impact.

This is a tragedy for Japan. In the article in the Japan Times Online, one significant bit of the news lies in the second to last paragraph. I’ll quote it here.

Last month, the court took the unusual step of urging prosecutors to add lighter charges to the two  original counts even though the proceedings on the case had already been concluded. It then opened a  session Tuesday before the ruling after the prosecutors accepted the court’s instructions.

As with many things that happen in Japan, and a lot of my own experiences… it seems like people shoot for some predetermined out come and justify it after the fact. I’ve seen strings pulled so much here that when I read things like “unusual step” and “though the proceedings on the case had already been concluded”, I can’t help but think that something is going on.

From what I’ve read I don’t know if the family or prosecutors can appeal this decision (especially if the prosecutors are playing ball) but I would love to see some kind of civil suit to garnish this guys wages and pay for the couple’s new baby’s college education or set up some kind of scholarship fun with the Inoue family (another family who lost two young children to a drunk driver a few year’s before the Ogami’s).

As it stands, Imabayashi will get out of jail at age 30 and get to start his life. I don’t think his whole life should be taken away from him, but I also don’t think that this sentence sets a good example for other young people who are going to drive drunk.

This court had a chance to deter a lot of young people from driving drunk, but in the end, for God knows what reason, dropped, kicked, deflated, and buried the ball.

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