National / Crime & Legal

Insanity defense at heart of Nagoya University student's murder trial


The lawyers for a 21-year-old woman on trial for strangling an elderly woman in 2014 and attempting to kill two high school students in 2012 said she should not be found guilty because she lacks the ability “to tell right from wrong.”

“I have nothing to say” to the charge of murder, the former Nagoya University student said Monday during the first session of her lay judge trial at the Nagoya District Court, during which prosecutors and her lawyers agreed on her motives but clashed over her sanity.

The woman denied she had any intent to murder the two students when she had them swallow thallium on separate occasions, saying, “I didn’t think they could die.”

Her name is being withheld because she was 19, a minor, when the incidents took place.

She is also under indictment for a third attempted murder and arson.

Her lawyers argued she “has no capacity to judge right from wrong as she has a development disorder,” while the prosecutors contended that she can be held criminally responsible based on her mental evaluation.

The defense and the prosecutors agreed that she “wanted to observe the process of someone dying.”

The woman was arrested in January 2015 on suspicion of strangling Tomoko Mori, 77, with a scarf after beating her with a hatchet in the defendant’s Nagoya apartment. The defendant had become acquainted with Mori when the victim introduced her to a religion.

She was charged in May 2015 with the attempted murder of a former female classmate from her junior high school and a male classmate from her high school using thallium between May and July 2012 in Sendai.

The prosecutors also charged her with arson, alleging she placed a Molotov cocktail at a house in Sendai in August 2014 and set fire to a mailbox at the house in December 2014.

A prosecutor said in an opening statement that she committed the crimes over a period of 2½ years when “she had a strong interest in changes to the human body.”

“Though she had a development disorder, its influence was limited and she was fully mentally competent,” the prosecutor said.

According to the prosecutors, she was trying to confirm the symptoms of poisoning and would have accepted the deaths as an outcome of her experiments.

Her lawyers said she developed bipolar disorder in addition to a development disorder and could not control her actions, and that she needs medical treatment to prevent her from committing another crime.

The high school formerly attended by the defendant and her 20-year-old male victim issued a statement Monday saying that although he managed to avoid blindness in the poisoning incident, his eyesight had been impaired and the school is closely watching the trial.

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