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2ND LD: Death sentence upheld against ex-nurse over murders for insurance.

FUKUOKA, May 16 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING INFO)

The Fukuoka High Court upheld on Tuesday the death sentence handed down against a former nurse convicted of collaborating with three other female hospital workers in killing two of their husbands for insurance money in 1998 and 1999 in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Junko Yoshida, 46, was found guilty by the Fukuoka District Court in September 2004 in a ruling that said she masterminded the killings. At the appellate court, Yoshida argued she did not have any absolute control over her accomplices and requested commutation.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Hamasaki determined, however, that Yoshida ''played a far greater role than the accomplices.''

''(Yoshida) clearly manipulated her accomplices with clever lies and (the court) cannot but mete out capital punishment,'' Hamasaki said.

On Tuesday, the high court also upheld a district court ruling handed down against 47-year-old Hitomi Ishii, a former nurse who was sentenced to 17 years in prison. It is scheduled to rule on Miyuki Tsutsumi, 46, a former clinical research coordinator sentenced to life imprisonment, on Thursday.

Ishii and Tsutsumi confessed to the charges but said Yoshida drew them into the group. Judge Hamasaki ruled Tuesday that Ishii had been a subordinate to Yoshida.

The remaining defendant, Kazuko Ikegami, a former nurse, died of cancer in September 2004 at age 43 before a ruling on her was handed down.

According to the high court ruling, Yoshida, Tsutsumi and Ikegami killed Ikegami's 39-year-old husband in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, in January 1998 by injecting air into his bloodstream.

In March 1999, the four women killed Ishii's 44-year-old husband in Okawa, also in the same prefecture, by injecting a large amount of liquor into his stomach through a medical tube.

The defendants received a total of 67 million yen in insurance money for the deaths, the ruling said.

They were arrested in April 2002 after Ishii, who allegedly had been threatened by Yoshida and the others, confessed to the Fukuoka prefectural police about her husband's murder.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:May 22, 2006
Words:329
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