Many facts surrounding death penalty in Japan are unclear, including how exactly the candidates for the next execution are chosen and when they will be executed. It is up to the Justice Minister to sign the final death warrant. Read here and here about recent executions in Japan.
The following news was revealed yesterday. (Courtesy of Professor Kenji Takeuchi (Kyushu University))
Former Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, while in office in 2009, ordered senior officials of the Ministry to consider putting death row inmates on the list of candidates for execution, even if they were seeking retrial. Fortunately, his intensions were not fulfilled at the time.
The factors that Ministry of Justice takes into consideration when picking candidates are not clear. Nevertheless, it has been indicated in the past that those inmates who are or will be seeking a retrial or clemency are excluded from the list of candidates. Other factors include (1) the condition of physical/ mental health of the inmates and (2) the length of time after the death sentence was finalized.
Mori suggested recently that he thought it was appropriate to put death row inmates on the list if (1) an inmate was filing for a retrial just to postpone the execution, (2) there seems to be no new evidence in support of the retrial, and (3) the petition for retrial would most certainly be denied by the court.
In addition, he said that even though the Criminal Procedure Code states that the execution should be carried out within six months from the finalization of the death sentence, executions are nevertheless delayed because of the petitions for retrial that are likely to be denied. He stated that he thought a “political decision” was needed to resolve the situation.
There was an instance in 1999 where then Justice Minister Hideo Usui executed a death row inmate who was seeking a retrial.
Read more about the death penalty in Japan here (English).