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KyoAni Arson Trial: Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty, As Aoba Admits He Should Atone With His Life

In the 22nd and final trial for the Kyoto Animation arson murder case, the Kyoto District Court heard the prosecution’s and the defense’s closing argument, and defendant Shinji Aoba’s final statement on Dec 7, 2023.

Aoba Trial

Closing arguments:

The prosecution demanded the death penalty for Aoba, who had admitted to the 2019 arson attack on Kyoto Animation Co. which killed 36 people, saying that the defendant’s conduct was “premeditated, extremely dangerous and truly cruel, having a significant impact on society.”

It is an unprecedented case of arson and mass murder, and the number of victims is by far the largest in the history of Japanese criminal trials,” the prosecution said. “It is virtually impossible to imagine the shock, anger and grief of the bereaved families.

The defense, in their closing argument, said that Aoba should not be handed a death penalty and that should be acquitted or given a reduced sentence because of his mentally incompetent state at the time of the attack. They argued that Aoba could not differentiate between delusions and reality at that time.

In a psychiatric evaluation that was carried out post indictment, one of the doctors who conducted the evaluation agreed that the defendant did suffer from “severe delusional disorder.”

Aoba thought that a dark figure and Kyoto Animation were working together to harass him and he brought the incident on himself as a countermeasure,” the defense said.

The defense had questioned the fairness of a death penalty being handed to out Aoba in one of the previous hearings too.

While the prosecution acknowledged that Aoba harbored delusions, they pointed out that it was not reason enough to avoid a capital punishment, because its influence on the crime was limited. According to them, Aoba had an an “irrational and extremely selfish motive,” and that “meticulously planned” the arson attack.

The victims bore no fault and the horror and despair of being exposed to a hellish situation is indescribable,” the prosecutor said. “The degree of disregard for life is profound.”

Aoba’s final statement:

Shinji aoba

In his final statement, the defendant Aoba said that he had answered all the questions to the best of his ability and that there was nothing else he could add.

On the hearing which took place on Dec 6, 2023, Aoba apologized for the first time to the bereaved family members of the victims, saying “I am sorry.”

When asked by the prosecutor about the opinions of the bereaved families wanting the defendant to “atone with his lives” and calling for the “ultimate penalty,” Aoba remarked saying “I think I should atone in that way.”

He said that such apologetic feelings had gradually accumulated in him over time little by little.

Aoba added that he told the court everything so that a lesson can be learnt from his actions, and so that such an incident [like the KyoAni arson] will never happen again. He also admitted that the incident would not have happened if he had received help of some sort before.

I am only grateful. If I had been placed in such an environment earlier, I would not have caused the incident,” Aoba said, pointing out how he is currently receiving assistance for rehabilitation of burns he sustained in the incident.

The verdict of the Kyoto Animation Arson trial will be handed down on Jan 25, 2024.

A devastating fire had broken out at KyoAni’s Studio 1 building on July 18, 2019. At the time, there were 70 people inside the building. The fire claimed the lives of 36 people and injured 33 more. Aside from the victims inside the building, the smoke also injured a man in his forties who was on his way to work.

Kyoto Animation’s productions were initially paused after the attack, and the onset of the pandemic further delayed its projects.

As a fresh comeback from the two-year aftershock of the tragedy, the studio resumed its production activities with the release of the second season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

Two memorials, as a symbol to honor the arson attack victims, are set to be unveiled on July 18, 2024, in order to mark the 5th anniversary of the incident.

Source: Kyodo News (Jp), Asahi Shimbun

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