• Kyodo

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The defense counsel for Mamoru Takuma, who was sentenced to death Aug. 28 for murdering eight children at an Osaka elementary school, appealed the ruling on Wednesday.

The move comes despite Takuma’s repeated requests that no appeal be lodged.

His lawyers filed the appeal with the Osaka High Court, saying the Osaka District Court failed to thoroughly examine the mental competency of Takuma, 39, before sentencing him to death.

The district court found Takuma guilty of murdering eight children and injuring 13 others plus two teachers during a stabbing rampage at Ikeda Elementary School in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in June 2001.

“We hope he will become aware of the preciousness of life through the appeal process,” said Shigeki Todani, Takuma’s chief lawyer.

They also said they think a more careful examination is necessary for meting out capital punishment and that judges in initial trials should not have the last say on death sentences.

In its ruling, the district court said Takuma is fully capable of taking responsibility for the crime, dismissing the defense arguments for an acquittal or leniency on the grounds of mental incompetence.

“We should continue with the trial as it was an incident that influenced society so deeply and profoundly,” the lawyer said. “We expect psychological and sociological analysis to be added to the trial at the high court.”

Since the district court handed down the sentence, the defense lawyers have met Takuma several times at the Osaka Detention House to try to persuade him to agree to an appeal, but he has refused, Todani said.

The lawyers said Takuma has shown that he understands their reasons for wanting to file the appeal but has not given clear consent to it. He said he will withdraw any appeal that is lodged.

If Takuma withdraws the appeal, the death sentence will become final. The Code of Criminal Procedure allows defense lawyers to appeal a ruling unless their client has explicitly asked that no appeal be lodged.

Psychotherapist Hirokazu Hasegawa, a professor at Tokai Women’s University, visited Takuma at the detention house Tuesday at the request of his defense lawyers as part of their efforts to convince their client to agree to an appeal.

Takuma has said he hopes that he will be executed as soon as possible because he does not want to prolong his life, and he knows that he will get the death sentence at the high court anyway.

But after talking to the lawyers and Hasegawa, Takuma said he may not immediately withdraw the appeal, according to the lawyers.

The lawyers’ move immediately drew fire from families of the victims of Takuma’s stabbing spree.

“So they appealed,” said Nobuo Totsuka, whose 6-year-old son, Takahiro, was killed in the attack. “It’s like we are back on the day the incident occurred.

“I know it is impossible to get my son back, but I had hoped to bring back a peace of mind (now that Takuma has been sentenced to death).”

The families also released a written statement saying, “We cannot understand what purpose and for whose benefit the defense counsel is appealing, as the appeal is made against the will of the defendant, which he had repeatedly expressed in and outside the court.

“The counsel totally lacks consideration for the victims and we cannot help but feel indignation . . . toward the counsel.”

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