An American minor pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of murdering an Irish exchange student in a Tokyo hotel last May as his Tokyo District Court trial started.
Prosecutors said the defendant, whose name has been withheld because he is a minor, strangled 21-year-old Nicola Furlong with a towel or something like one in the Shinjuku Ward hotel he was staying at early on the morning of May 24. The two had just met the previous evening after attending a concert in Tokyo.
The 19-year-old defendant, a musician, admitted to being in the same room with Furlong but stressed he only lightly pressed her neck and denied any intent to kill.
“I did not believe I was the cause of her death because the pressure was light. There was no resistance from her and I had no motive, intent or reason to hurt, harm or kill her,” he told the court Monday morning.
In their opening statement, prosecutors stated that the defendant brought Furlong, who was unconscious from drinking too much alcohol, back to his hotel room to have sex with her but got into some trouble with her later and strangled her with “strong intent to kill.”
They urged the three professional and six lay judges who are trying the case to find him guilty and consider the brutality of the crime and that the defendant has shown “no sign of remorse.”
Even though the defendant is a minor, the family court ruled he should be tried in a criminal court. Eight trial sessions are planned, with the ruling expected to be handed down March 19.
The youth’s counsel argued in their opening statement that the young musician had no reason to kill the woman he had just met earlier that night, claiming she died from an excessive intake of alcohol and drugs. They said blood tests showed that Furlong was not only highly intoxicated but also detected two types of drugs — alprazolam, known as Xanax, and lidocain.
“The defendant is innocent. There is no motive, no reason for him to have to kill her,” the lawyers said. “I would like for the courts to remember that the defendant shall not be convicted when there is doubt.”
The defendant, a keyboardist from the U.S., was in Japan temporarily from last April as a band member for the popular Japanese singer Ai. He and his dancer friend, James Blackston, happened to meet Furlong and her friend after a Nicki Minaj concert.
Furlong was attending Takasaki City University of Economics in Gunma Prefecture and was visiting Tokyo with a girlfriend to attend the concert in Koto Ward. After the show, the four went drinking at a bar in Shibuya, where witnesses testified they downed multiple shots of tequila.
The four then took a taxi to the hotel, where employees had to put the two drunken women, who could not walk, in wheelchairs to take them to the rooms where the defendant and Blackston were staying, the duty manager testified Monday.
The defendants’ lawyers said the minor and Furlong got into an argument and he put his hand over her mouth and his other hand on her neck to quiet her down, and he was surprised when she became limp and stopped breathing. They added he also unsuccessfully tried CPR.
Blackston went into his room with Furlong’s friend. He is standing trial separately on charges of indecent assault.