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Term of up to 10 years urged for minor in Furlong killing

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Prosecutors demanded five to 10 years imprisonment Wednesday for an American on trial for allegedly killing an Irish exchange student in Tokyo last May.

Throughout the trial, the 19-year old defendant, whose name has been withheld because he is a minor, has maintained his innocence over allegations that he strangled 21-year-old Nicola Furlong in a hotel in Shinjuku Ward in the early morning of May 24, 2012.

But during Wednesday’s session, prosecutors reiterated their claim that the defendant had put heavy pressure on Furlong’s neck with a “strong intent to kill” and denounced the minor for showing no remorse. They also brushed off claims by the defense lawyers that Furlong died of excessive alcohol and drug intake, stating, based on an autopsy finding of strangulation, that the marks found on her neck and blood concentration in her face showed she had been strangled. The prosecutors further added that drugs were not a significant factor leading to her death.

The defense claimed that the defendant had acted “in good faith” by taking Furlong, who had lost consciousness after consuming shots of tequila, back to his hotel room and added that she had asked for “rough sex.”

“The defendant has shown not even the slightest sign of remorse and he also made the victim out to be promiscuous,” prosecutors said in their closing statement. “The victim’s vibrant life was robbed unreasonably because of the defendant’s selfish action.”

The ruling in the case, which is being heard by three professional judges and six lay judges at the Tokyo District Court, is expected to be handed down March 19. The indefinite prison term of five to 10 years demanded by prosecutors is in accordance with juvenile law.

Lawyers representing Furlong’s parents, Andrew and Angela, told the court that the defendant was planning on sexual advantage of Furlong from the beginning and that they were seeking the harshest punishment possible for the minor.

The defense lawyers and the defendant “made it seem as if (Furlong) was promiscuous and a drug addict. The deceased cannot tell her side of the story, and not only did (the defendant) kill her, he also trampled on the hearts of the victim’s family,” the lawyers representing the victim’s family said.

Facing members of Furlong’s family and relatives of his own, the defendant broke down crying Wednesday as he made his final plea in court, claiming that he did not intend to kill her and stressing that he had attempted to revive her through CPR.

“There have been many nights where I have cried myself to sleep. The death of Nicola has given me a painful thorn, a very painful thorn,” the defendant said. “In my short life, I have never hurt anyone verbally or physically.”

The defendant, who repeatedly addressed the Furlong’s parents directly, said that their daughter “did not suffer,” and asked that since they “believe in the same God,” that they believe his statements in the same way. He also said he felt “deep remorse for the family.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Furlong, I never had any intention to bring harm to your daughter,” he said. “I feel very sorry for their loss (but) I firmly believe that I didn’t kill their daughter. That is from the bottom of my heart.”

The defendant, a keyboard player from the U.S., had been in Japan temporarily since last April touring with Japanese singer Ai. He had just met Furlong, a student at Takasaki City University of Economics in Gunma Prefecture, the night before her death.

The two, plus the defendant’s friend, American dancer James Blackston, and another woman had gone to a Nicki Minaj concert, then drank heavily at a bar in Shibuya before taking a taxi to the hotel where the males were staying. Employees there said the women were passed out and had to be wheeled to the men’s rooms.

Three-years for assault

AP

The friend of an American minor on trial in the murder of an Irish exchange student in Tokyo was convicted Wednesday of sexually assaulting the woman she was with on the night she died.

The Tokyo District Court found James Blackston guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a four-year sentence.

Blackston, a 23-year-old dancer from Los Angeles, was accused of assaulting the woman in a taxi on the way to a Tokyo hotel last May after he and the 19-year-old, whose name has been withheld because he is a minor under law, took her and Nicola Furlong out drinking.

The minor is on trial separately on charges of murdering Furlong in another room at the hotel. Testimony in his trial ended Wednesday and a verdict is expected March 19.

According to testimony in both trials, Furlong and her friend, who is also Irish but whose name is being withheld, came to Tokyo to see a Nicki Minaj concert. After the concert, the two met Blackston and his friend and went with them to a bar. At some point both of the women passed out. Prosecutors have alleged they were drugged.

Security camera footage presented as evidence apparently showed Blackston sexually assaulting Furlong’s friend in a taxi on the way to the hotel, where the men borrowed wheelchairs to get the unconscious women to the rooms.

Prosecutors say the 19-year-old defendant strangled Furlong, a Dublin City University student from Curracloe, Wexford, with a towel to keep her quiet after she regained consciousness. The defendant has denied the charges.