High court quashes ruling on fatal road rage case, jail term on technicality

A Japanese high court quashed Friday a ruling that handed an 18-year jail term to a man involved in a fatal 2017 road rage incident, sending the case back to a lower court due to an illegal procedural issue.
The Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling of the Yokohama District Court that Kazuho Ishibashi, 27, caused an accident resulting in the death of a couple and injuries to their daughters, but ordered the case be reheard by the lower court.
The district court convicted Ishibashi of dangerous driving after he overtook the car of Yoshihisa Hagiyama, 45, and his family on the Tomei Expressway in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, on June 5, 2017, and forced it to stop in the passing lane.
While stopped, the car was struck from behind by a truck.
The lower court ruling in December last year said Ishibashi became enraged after being warned by Hagiyama about the way he parked his car at an expressway parking area just before the incident. Ishibashi pursued Hagiyama who was traveling with his wife, Yuka, 39, and their two daughters.
Presiding high court Judge Yoshifumi Asayama said the district court illegally overturned a view expressed at a pre-trial hearing that Ishibashi's act did not constitute dangerous driving under the law. He criticized the court's actions that led to the ruling being nullified.
"The accused and his defense were caught off guard (by the change of the court's view). It was an illegal procedure that affected the ruling," Asayama said.
After being covered widely in the media, the case sparked public concern about dangerous driving in Japan, leading to a police crackdown and calls for traffic laws to be revised.
The mother of the man killed in the accident told a press conference that she is "unconvinced" by the high court's decision.

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