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Death sentence upheld for Akihabara rampage killer

by

Staff Writer

The Supreme Court on Monday finalized the death penalty of Tomohiro Kato for the vehicular homicide and stabbing spree that left seven people dead and 10 injured on the streets of Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood in 2008.

The indiscriminate killing spree was carried out based on Kato’s “meticulous preparation” and “determined intent of murder,” Chief Justice Ryuko Sakurai said.

“The incident also had huge repercussions on society and the victims’ kin are keenly desirous of his punishment,” she continued, condemning the 32-year-old former temp worker as liable for “extremely grave criminal responsibility” and worthy of no extenuating circumstances.

Kato, who was 25 at the time, plowed a rental truck into a crowded intersection in Japan’s mecca for “otaku” (geek) culture on June 8, 2008, killing three people and injuring two. He then got out, chased down and stabbed bystanders, killing four and wounding eight.

The incident shocked Japan and shoved the problem of youth dissatisfaction with unstable employment back into the spotlight.

It also froze Akihabara’s Sunday tradition of forming pedestrian-only shopping zones by closing its main street, Chuo-dori, to traffic every week.

Kato has explained in past testimony that his motive was to vent his pent-up anger at society and demonstrate to all of his tormentors, including people he claimed had been harassing him in an Internet forum, of the consequences of their actions.

Just before the attack, he posted anonymous messages online detailing his intentions. He was sentenced to hang by the district and high courts in 2011 and 2012.

Before Monday’s ruling, his defense team had asked for clemency on the grounds that Kato was barely sane at the time of the massacre due to obnoxious online harassment he was subject to.

The prosecutors countered that he must have been mentally competent enough to know the magnitude of what he was about to do, citing his thorough preparation.

The top court ruled in favor of the prosecution, saying his plan had been meticulously planned.

The Tokyo District Court’s ruling stated that Kato drove past the intended crime scene three times before he was able to launch his attack, an act of hesitation it said suggested he was aware of the gravity of what he was about to do.

The district court also said Kato, partly because of his abusive mother, was incapable of understanding the feelings of others and developing healthy relationships with them.