An American man charged with raping and murdering a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa has said he did not intend to kill her, adding that he fears an automatic death sentence because local people have prejudged his guilt.
In a petition filed Monday with the Naha District Court in Okinawa, former U.S. Marine Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, also denied raping Rina Shimabukuro, a resident of Uruma, central Okinawa. He added that he twice tried to take his own life before arrest.
In the petition, he asked that his case be moved to Tokyo, citing bias against him in Okinawa, where anti-U.S. sentiment has reached a boiling point. Shinzato was a contract worker at Kadena Air Base.
“I did not have the intention of killing the victim,” Shinzato wrote in the petition. “Furthermore, I did not rape her. I will state the details of the case in court.”
On Tuesday, the military-linked Stars and Stripes newspaper printed news of Shinzato’s petition and carried a PDF copy of his signed statement on its website.
Toshimitsu Takaesu, a lawyer representing Shinzato, confirmed the authenticity of the statement on Wednesday, telling The Japan Times that Shinzato himself asked that it be printed.
“I believe that the jurors not only have concluded me as guilty through the police’s one-sided story, but also will not believe what I say despite it being the truth,” Shinzato wrote. “They believe that the case is cold-blooded and heinous and will decide to give me the death sentence.”
Under such circumstances, he said he cannot expect a “fair trial” in Okinawa, and asked to be tried elsewhere.
Shinzato wrote that he remained silent during questioning after his arrest in May because investigators refused to make allowances for his poor health.
“I was physically and mentally at my weakest point due to my two suicide attempts; regardless, the police did not take my situation into consideration and arrested me knowing this fact, and it was very upsetting for me,” he wrote. “That is why I kept my silence during the interrogation.”
Shinzato was initially arrested on May 19 on suspicion of dumping Shimabukuro’s body.
He is suspected of raping the woman in a grassy field near a road in Uruma and then stabbing her to death with a knife on the night of April 28. Shimabukuro had been out for an evening walk.
The incident has sparked massive public protests in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.
It also led to Tokyo and Washington revising the legal status of certain civilian workers such as Shinzato, who worked at a TV and internet cable-laying business at Kadena.
On Tuesday the two governments announced that such workers will no longer be protected under the Status of Forces Agreement, which critics have long charged is overly broad and vague.
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