Partial guilty plea in Mazda rampage trial

Kyodo

A former seasonal worker at Mazda Motor Corp. pleaded guilty Thursday to hitting and injuring eight people with a car at a two-factory complex of the carmaker in Hiroshima Prefecture in 2010 but said he was innocent of the death of a man during the rampage and injuries to two others.

“I acknowledge (guilt) until the eighth person, but not from the ninth, as I don’t remember,” Toshiaki Hikiji, 44, said at the first session of his lay judge trial at the Hiroshima District Court. He is charged with murder and attempted murder. The dead man was among the 11 people hit by the car he was driving.

Hikiji’s counsel argued that while Hikiji may have driven recklessly on the plant premises, he was insane at the time and cannot be held criminally responsible. The Penal Code says acts of insanity are not punishable.

The defense also insisted Hikiji had no intention to kill the workers, saying his act of hitting them with his car only constituted the crimes of injury and injury resulting in death.

In their opening statement, prosecutors said Hikiji was bent on a rampage similar to the 2008 vehicular and knife killings committed by a man in Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district, in a bid to bring the Mazda into disrepute, believing he was being harassed by coworkers.

The prosecutors said psychiatric tests showed Hikiji was fully competent, thus responsible for his actions, which they say were planned in advance.

The indictment said Hikiji hit 12 male employees with his car successively at Mazda’s adjoining auto plants in the city of Hiroshima and town of Fuchu on the morning of June 22, 2010, two months after he retired as a seasonal worker.

Among the victims, Hiroshi Hamada, 39, died and the other 11 suffered severe or slight injuries.

Presiding Judge Koji Inaba will issue a verdict in Hikiji’s trial March 9 after holding 18 sessions and questioning 32 witnesses, including surviving victims and psychiatrists.