• Kyodo

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A judge at the Osaka District Court died, apparently by suicide, hours before he was due to hand down a verdict in a lay judge trial, the court and police said Friday.

Kenji Murata, 57, was found hanged inside a locked room at his official residence in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, by a court official who went to check on him Thursday after he did not show up at the court.

While no suicide note was found, the police said they believe he took his own life. He was supposed to hand down a sentence in a sexual assault case at 11 a.m. Thursday, and another judge read the verdict in court.

Murata became a judge in 1986 and was assigned to the Osaka District Court in April 2011.

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