Presiding Judge Satoru Hattori at the Tokyo District Court ruled the cultist, Seiichi Endo, was driven to the crime by his selfish desire to climb the career ladder within the group.
"The defendant was motivated by his selfish desire to attain respectable positions within the group. He took part in a series of crimes at his own discretion," the judge said in rejecting a defense argument that Endo, 'health minister' for the cult, was brainwashed by AUM guru Shoko Asahara to obey his orders at the time.
Endo has been found guilty of four accounts of murder and attempted murder, including the sarin gas attacks in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994 and on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. A total of 19 people were killed while thousands more were injured.
Endo was acquitted of harboring two AUM members who were wanted for abduction and false imprisonment in 1995.
His lawyers had argued that Endo had no idea how deadly sarin gas was or how it was going to be employed.
But Hattori and other judges rejected the argument, citing the facts that AUM members who carried out the actual attacks were armed with antidotes to sarin. "The defendant was fully aware of the deadly effects of sarin gas. He clearly had an intent to kill an indiscriminate number of Matsumoto residents," the presiding judge said. "Moreover, he was also aware that the sarin gas was going to be used to murder people in enclosed spaces such as on the subway system. In short, he played a key role in the AUM crimes."
The 42-year-old "health minister" for the cult is the ninth cult member to be handed the death penalty.
Shizue Takahashi, who lost her husband in the 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo, said Endo deserves the death sentence. "My husband would be alive if he did not produce sarin. I can't forgive him for producing sarin as if he was conducting a chemical experiment."
Endo was responsible for producing sarin and other poison gasses alongside fellow cultists, Masami Tsuchiya and Tomomasa Nakagawa. Trials for Tsuchiya, Nakagawa and guru Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, continue.