KyoAni Arsonist’s Defense Appeal To High Court Following Death Sentence; Families Express Frustration

Kyoto Animation

In a dramatic turn of events, the defense team representing Shinji Aoba, the convicted arsonist responsible for the July 2019 attack on Kyoto Animation, filed an appeal with the Osaka High Court. The move comes in response to the death sentence handed down to Aoba by presiding judge Keisuke Matsuda on Jan 25, 2024.

Kyoto Animation

During the trial the defense claimed that Aoba was in a state where he could not distinguish reality from fiction while setting fire to the animation studio and that his sentence should be lenient in light of his mental state.

Judge Matsuda’s ruling had however noted that Aoba was neither insane nor was of diminished capacity when he committed the crime, which made him liable for his actions.

Further details regarding the appeal is yet to be revealed.

The family members of the victims have expressed their frustration regarding the appeal by the defense, which has put a halt to the death sentence that was handed down.

After a lengthy wait, we finally received the verdict. I felt a sense of closure in my heart. However, learning about the appeal left me with an unbearable feeling. As I am getting older, I worry that I may not be able to witness the end of the trial. It’s frustrating that we can’t move forward without a confirmed sentence,” said the mother of late Naomi Ishida, a color designer at Kyoto Animation who is credited for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, A Silent Voice, and more.

Tatsuko, the mother of the late Mikiko Watanabe, who is credited as the art director on Violet Evergarden, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, among others at Kyoto Animation, said, “It is common for appeals to be made, but my sincere wish is for them to stop the appeal. The defendant knows that what he did was wrong, so I want him to stop the appeal“.

Tatsuko had been actively conducting lecture activities across various locations, emphasizing the importance of supporting crime victims. She stated, “I believe it is crucial to create a society where incidents like this do not happen, and I think the trial can be a catalyst for that“.

The father of a male animator who lost his life in the incident expressed disappointment after attending the trials, stating that he did not feel any sense of remorse from the accused Aoba.

Regarding the death penalty verdict, he commented, “Even with the death penalty, it cannot compensate for the lives of the 36 people who passed away, and my son will not come back. I once again felt that the question of why my son had to die would continue to haunt me until my death“.

Furthermore, regarding the defense lawyer for the accused Aoba filing an appeal, he mentioned, “I was hoping that regardless of the verdict, it would be accepted. It’s unfortunate. I wish the defendant, if given the opportunity, would speak about the circumstances that led to the tragic incident, not just for their own sake but for society, to ensure that such a devastating event does not happen again“.

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.

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: NHK

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