• Kyodo

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Lawyers for the woman accused of killing four people and injuring 63 others with arsenic-laced curry at a Wakayama festival four years ago said in their closing arguments Wednesday the evidence against their client is purely circumstantial.

Masumi Hayashi, 41, has pleaded not guilty. Her lawyers rebuffed prosecutors’ claims in their final arguments, made in June, that she committed “indiscriminate mass murder” and “a crime of unprecedented heinousness and seriousness.”

The defense was expected to wrap up its closing arguments Wednesday evening, bringing an end to the trial after 94 sessions since May 1999.

The poisonings occurred at a summer fair held in the Sonobe district of the city of Wakayama on July 25, 1998. Hayashi’s trial began in May 1999, and the Wakayama District Court may issue a ruling by the end of this year.

In their final argument, Hayashi’s lawyers claimed that she is entirely innocent and that the evidence against her is purely circumstantial.

They said prosecutors have been unable to establish a motive despite pursuing charges that Hayashi tried on previous occasions to use arsenic to kill people, allegedly for insurance payouts, and that this undermined the basis of their case in the curry poisonings.

Hayashi, a former insurance saleswoman, has also been charged with four counts of attempted murder-for-insurance for trying to poison her husband, Kenji, 57, a former termite exterminator who had used arsenic in his business, as well as one of his former employees and a male acquaintance — the latter on two occasions.

She is also charged with three counts of insurance fraud involving her husband, who is currently serving a six-year term for the offense.

In the curry poisonings, Hayashi’s lawyers questioned the credibility of eyewitness accounts and rebuffed earlier claims by prosecutors that she was involved in nine other attempts to murder people using arsenic, for which she has not yet been indicted.

The lawyers added that many of the symptoms shown by her husband and others Hayashi allegedly attempted to poison differ from those exhibited by the victims of the curry poisonings.

In their final arguments, prosecutors demanded the death sentence for Hayashi. They said she poisoned the curry because she got the impression that other women at the fair had snubbed her for turning up late to prepare the food for the community event.

Prosecutors produced no material evidence linking Hayashi to the curry poisonings, relying instead on circumstantial evidence, including their assertion that the arsenic detected in the curry and that stored in her house were from the same source.

Using a synchrotron radiation device, the prosecution claimed the arsenic from the curry and that stored in the defendant’s house had been produced “in the same factory, from the same ingredients and in the same time period.”

According to prosecutors, of the four people who prepared the curry at around noon on the day of the fair — believed to be the same time the arsenic was mixed into the curry — only Hayashi could have done it.

Hayashi has pleaded guilty to insurance fraud, but said that she is not guilty in the curry poisonings, telling the court at the start of her trial that she “had absolutely no involvement.”

Hayashi kept silent in court when prosecutors tried to question her last March.

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