Kato shouldn’t be hanged: lawyers

by Setsuko Kamiya

Tomohiro Kato was mentally ill and lacked the ability to control his actions when he murdered seven people and wounded 10 others on the streets of the Akihabara electronic district in 2008, defense attorneys told the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday, hoping to keep their client off death row.

“Right now, I regret and feel sorry for having committed the crime,” Kato told the court at the conclusion of his trial. “I apologize to the bereaved families and the victims.”

Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for Kato, whom they argue was mentally sound and thus fully accountable for his actions. Kato owned up to the killings when the trial began in January 2010. The court is scheduled to hand down its verdict on March 24.

“Considering the graveness of the crime, we believe that it is best to let Kato think and repent for what he has done for the rest of his life,” the defense team said.

In their closing argument, Kato’s lawyers blamed a cell phone bulletin board site for contributing to the rage that motivated the confessed killer. Kato, they said, felt very close to those he communicated with frequently on the site. However, they allege he became extremely upset when others on the site posted false messages using his identity, causing confusion.

When the site administrator ignored his request to deal with the situation, defense attorneys said, Kato’s stress level grew. Enraged, he began posting messages on the bulletin board saying he would commit a major crime.

“What he has done is inexcusable, but his intention was not to murder or injure people but to warn the administrator to fix the problem (of his hijacked identity),” they said, countering the prosecution’s argument that Kato’s anger toward his employer at a car assembly firm in Shizuoka Prefecture eventually transformed into a hatred of society.

The defense also questioned the credibility of the interrogation records, claiming Kato’s memory of his actions before and during the rampage were impaired.

Kato is accused of driving a rented 2-ton truck into Akihabara’s main street at around 12:30 p.m. on June 8, 2008, running over and killing three men. He then got out of the vehicle and stabbed four more people to death with a dagger.