Miyuki Ueta: Woman on death row for killing two men fatally chokes and dies on food just before execution

Miyuki Ueta: Woman on death row for killing two men fatally chokes and dies on food just before execution
Representational image (Rattankun Thongbun/ Getty Images)

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN: A Japanese criminal, who had received the death penalty, has died after choking on her meal. Miyuki Ueta was behind bars awaiting her execution when she became unconscious while having jail food at the Hiroshima detention center on Saturday, January 14. She was immediately rushed to a hospital, but was soon declared dead. 

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On January 15, the Justice Ministry confirmed Ueta’s death citing suffocation as the cause. It has been said that the 49-year-old was eating at around 4.20 pm when she lost consciousness. Jail employees tried to take out the food in her mouth to bring her back, but nothing worked. She breathed her last at the hospital at approximately 6.55 pm.

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Shockingly, Ueta reportedly had a choking experience a few days before her death. She had been in jail after being convicted for robbery and murder of two men in Tottori Prefecture in 2009. In 2012, she was found guilty of killing a truck driver Kazumi Yabe, 47, and an electronics store owner Hideki Maruyama, 57. Reports said she first gave sleeping pills to both her victims before drowning them in the sea and a river respectively. She reportedly owed money to both men.

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Meanwhile, after Ueta’s death, Japan now has 105 death row prisoners. Death sentence is quite prevalent in the Asian nation despite facing criticisms from global bodies who argue that, several times, innocent people have to go through a lot because of it. An example of it was the case of Sakae Menda who was on death row for over three decades for crimes he did not actually commit. He was ultimately freed in 1983.

Another example was Iwao Hakamada who spent nearly five decades in jail on death row. He was wrongly convicted in a mass murder case. However, he as released in 2014. Moreover, in November 2022, three men on death row in Osaka sued “the state seeking an end to the practice of execution by hanging, claiming the method is considered inhumane under international conventions.”

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As per the prisoners’ lawyer Kyoji Mizutani, they took the step to call attention to “the reality of capital punishment” in Japan. The Japan Times reported that the “plaintiffs claim that hanging as the sole means of execution under Japan’s Penal Code is inhumane, causes unbearable pain and violates international covenants on human rights.”

“The inmates also said living in fear over a long period of time — due to their not knowing when they will be executed — has led to mental agony. The complaint contends that the government’s withholding of information such as the manner of executions hinders public debate on the pros and cons of the death penalty,” the publication added.

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