Richard Hinds found guilty of Nicola Furlong’s murder in Tokyo, Japan

The family of Nicola Furlong outside a courthouse in Tokyo, Japan 19 March 2013

Richard Hinds, a nineteen-year-old American man from Tennessee, has been found guilty of the murder of Irish student Nicola Furlong in Tokyo last May. Hinds was considered a minor under Japanese law when he was arrested, but was tried in an adult court.

He was given a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 years, with labor. During sentencing, the Chief Judge said Hinds had shown no sign of remorse and had tainted the honor of the victim.

Nicola Furlong, age 21, from Curracloe, County Wexford, was studying in Japan as part of her studies with Dublin City University. Ms Furlong and her friend, whose name is withheld, went to Tokyo to see a concert. After the concert, they met Hinds and his friend James Blackston and went with them to a bar. At some point both of the women were drugged and passed out. Security camera footage presented as evidence at trial showed Blackston sexually assaulting Ms. Furlong’s friend in a taxi on the way back to the hotel. At the hotel, the men got wheelchairs to get the unconscious women to the rooms. Prosecutors said that Hinds strangled Ms. Furlong with a towel to keep her quiet after she regained consciousness. Hinds has denied the murder from the start.

During the trial the prosecution had argued that Mr. Hinds should serve a 10-year prison sentence. Ten years is the maximum a minor can receive in Tokyo.  Last week, a friend of Hinds, James Blackston, was convicted of sexually assaulting the woman Nicola Furlong was with on the night she died.  Blackston is a 23-year-old dancer from Los Angeles. He was ultimately sentenced to three years in prison.

Ms. Furlong’s family was “disgusted and angry by the verdict”. Ms Furlong’s mother Angela said: “Nicola’s life was worth more than that. We still don’t know the truth of what happened in that room but we know Nicola did nothing wrong, we knew that coming out anyway.” Nicola’s sister said she felt let down by the Japanese criminal justice system. “We had so much faith in the Japanese doing justice for us and I don’t feel we got it.”

Do you think that Hinds should have been given a more severe sentence? Does the fact that he must do labor while in prison make up for the fact that the sentence was so minimal? Would you suggest that Japan reformulate their laws dealing with minors for severe crimes such as murder?

Article and Picture Source:  BBC NEWS





  1. This presents a problem between policy and personal feelings. According to Japanese law, Hinds was considered a minor because he was under the age of 20. (Shonenho [Juvenile Law] (adopted July 15, 1948) Law No. 168, art. 1, translated in 2 EHS LAW BULL. SERIES TA (1994)). Ten years was the maximum amount of jail time that he could have received for the crime. The prosecutors were seeking this jail sentence and got it. In the eyes of Japanese law this was a victory. The question is if this was severe enough given the nature of the crime. It should be interesting to note though that in New York, if you are tried as a juvenile you are generally imprisoned until the age of 22. It is true that most violent felonies like murder and rape will probably result in the juvenile being tried as an adult in New York but we are dealing with a situation where the defendant was tried as a juvenile. Viewing it from that standard, Japan is actually harsher in their standards of punishment. The question I propose then is if Hinds should have been tried as an adult in Japan? In Japan juveniles who are 16 or older may be tried as an adult but where the death was intentional. Hinds maintains that the death was not intentional.

  2. I do think Hinds should have been given a more severe sentence than a 5 year minimum and 10 year maximum. I think this both in regards to deterrence and retribution. I feel that others seeing how much harm Hinds caused – rape, drugging, having wheelchairs to get the drugged women up to the room, murder – and the meager sentence he received will not truly deter others from potentially committing the same crime, if not just one of the many crimes Hinds committed. Furthermore, I think that Hinds deserves more punishment than this. Yes, there will be labor involved which will make the jail experience that much more intense, but I don’t think that is enough. It seems that Hinds has committed terrible offenses, yet is getting off pretty light. I don’t think the answer is us making more serious sentences for minors, but perhaps trying minors as adults in certain situations – i.e., when death or rape occurs.

  3. I agree with Alison. Japan should not hesitate to try a 19-year-old man as an adult when dealing with a homicide. I find it difficult to believe that this murder was accidental, after the numerous steps taken by the defendant to drug the victim, take her to a hotel room, and then strangling her as she regained consciousness. Regardless, when dealing with homicide, a 19-year-old should be tried as an adult. The only other alternative I can imagine would be to lower the age requirement for trying people as adults. This would raise other issues. What if an 18-year-old man raped and murdered a woman? Would 18 be too young? Would 17 be too young? I think Alison is right in stating that it should be the severity of the crime that weighs most heavily on the charges placed against the defendant. A 10-year maximum sentence is simply insufficient in this case. I feel for the family of the victim in this case and I completely understand their indignation.

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