Gallows urged over Akihabara rampage

by Setsuko Kamiya

Prosecutors demanded Tuesday that Tomohiro Kato be sent to the gallows for the 2008 massacre of seven people and wounding of 10 others in Tokyo’s popular Akihabara electronics district.

In their closing argument, the prosecutors told the Tokyo District Court that Kato, 28, is mentally fit to be held liable for his “extremely self-centered, premeditated” crimes.

“In a matter of minutes, seven precious lives were lost, and 10 people were wounded. Among indiscriminate random murders, this attack had a large casualty count and was one of the most heinous crimes ever committed,” they said.

Kato is accused of driving a rented 2-ton truck into Akihabara’s main street, which had been closed to traffic, at around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 8, 2008, running over and killing three men.

He then allegedly exited the vehicle and fatally stabbed four more people with a dagger and wounded 10 others before he was caught by a police officer who was also stabbed but not hurt because he was wearing body armor.

Kato pleaded guilty when his trial started last January. His attorneys have argued that his mental condition was unstable during the rampage and he should not be held fully accountable for the crimes. Their closing argument will be presented Feb. 9, and the sentence will be handed down March 24.

On Tuesday, prosecutors said a psychiatric examination determined Kato had no mental illness and could be held fully liable. As for motive, they argued that he was driven by a need to exact revenge against people who ignored him in life and those who criticized him on a cell phone bulletin board — by committing a major crime.

A temp worker at a car assembly factory in Shizuoka Prefecture at the time, Kato grew angry toward his employer because he felt he was being treated as replaceable, and when his work clothes disappeared he took it as a message to quit, the prosecution said.

Kato regarded the cell phone bulletin board as his only source of escape but felt betrayed after some began to post criticisms, leading him to eventually feel everyone was his enemy, they said. On the day of the attack, Kato allegedly posted threats on the bulletin board of what was to come.

“It’s true that the defendant was suffering, but there are others who are in a tougher situation than him. And regardless of what kind of situation he was in, it does not justify indiscriminate murders,” the prosecutors said.

They said the victims’ relatives are in deep sorrow and want Kato to hang for his crimes. Survivors of the stabbing spree are still suffering both physically and mentally, and most also seek severe punishment, they added.

“It is not only those who were directly victimized, but a large number of those who happened to be at the scene are also deeply hurt,” they said.

Prosecutors said the crime had social consequences, including ending Akihabara’s vehicle-free zone on Sundays as well as legal revision making possession of a dagger a criminal offense. The vehicle-free zone reopened last Sunday.

Kato’s trial has had 28 sessions, and the court has heard testimony from more than 40 witnesses, including victims and their families. Kato also took the stand.

Kato was charged before the introduction of the lay judge system in May 2009.