A 38-year-old man sentenced to death for the murder of two pachinko parlor employees in 2003 has retracted his Tokyo High Court appeal, it was learned Friday.

The lawyer for Tomoaki Takanezawa, however, has maintained that the retraction is invalid because his client had acted while in a state in which he could not think properly and has called on the court to start the appellate trial.

The high court is expected to hear the views of both the prosecutors and the defendant to determine whether Takanezawa’s action is valid, sources said.

According to his lawyer, Takanezawa suddenly refused to appear for the first session in the appellate trial, which had been set for July 13. The session was canceled and the defendant submitted documents saying he would retract his appeal the same day.

He was quoted as being dissatisfied with the March 2004 Saitama District Court ruling sentencing him to death, saying that statements that did not reflect his views were adopted as evidence. However, in recent months he appeared to become emotionally unstable, saying that even if the appeal trial went ahead, “the results were obvious.”

His lawyer said the shock of the sentence and being on death row seemed to have taken their toll on Takanezawa.

According to the district court, Takanezawa conspired with former convenience store employee Mitsunori Onogawa, 28, to murder the two pachinko parlor employees, in February and April 2003. After both murders, they took the keys to the victims’ parlors in an attempt to steal money. In one case they were successful, making off with 3 million yen in cash.

Onogawa was also sentenced to hang and has appealed.

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