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Seven hours of video show changes in accused Tochigi killer’s demeanor

Kyodo

The trial of accused killer Takuya Katsumata saw more than seven hours of his interrogation videos emerge, showing him flip-flop from one stance to another during the process.

On Tuesday, prosecutors at the Utsunomiya District Court demanded life imprisonment for Katsumata, who stands accused of murdering a 7-year-old girl in Tochigi Prefecture in 2005.

As there is no significant physical evidence and no murder weapon, all eyes are on how lay judges will view the credibility of his confession when the ruling is handed down on March 31.

Katsumata is pleading not guilty and says his confession was coerced.

In Japan, calls for more transparency in the interrogation process have been mounting for decades amid widespread complaints that many confessions are coerced by overzealous police officers. This has led police and prosecutors across the country in recent years to start recording their interrogations.

Prosecutors began recording Katsumata’s interrogation sessions on the afternoon of Feb. 18, 2014, after he started confessing that morning to the murder of Yuki Yoshida. Tochigi police followed suit on June 3, 2014, when they arrested him on suspicion of murdering the elementary school girl.

A total of about 80 hours of recordings were made.

At his trial, the defendant’s facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice were all plainly visible in the videos.

“You were questioned about the murder in the morning, weren’t you?” a video from the afternoon of Feb. 18, 2014, showed prosecutors asking him.

“I don’t remember,” Katsumata mumbles in response.

In a recording from Feb. 25, 2014, Katsumata stands up and shouts, “I can’t stand it anymore,” before rushing toward the window of the interrogation room.

In a police recording on the afternoon of June 3, 2014, following his arrest on suspicion of murder, Katsumata is shown saying “I have no excuse,” before denying the charge later that night.

“I didn’t kill her,” he says.

What prosecutors deemed most crucial was what they said was Katsumata’s full confession to the murder on June 11, 2014.

In the video, Katsumata seems to be fighting back tears under gentle questioning.

“Show us your humane nature,” one prosecutor says. “It was you who killed (Yoshida), wasn’t it, Takuya?”

“Yes,” he replies before starting to cry.

Katsumata went on to explain how he stabbed the girl while she was standing, and how he held her in his arms while knifing her.

After that session ended, he took a deep breath and said, “I feel better now.” He then bowed to the prosecutors.

Sensing the change in attitude, some of court spectators leaned forward when the footage was showed.

On Friday, the district court accepted the confession statements delivered between June 20 and 22 of 2014 as evidence, based on crucial comments he made on June 11 that year.