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Friday, June 27, 2003

Takuma's final defense for massacre: insanity


Staff writer

OSAKA -- In an emotional, six-hour closing argument that ended with quotations from the Greek tragedy "Antigone," lawyers for Mamoru Takuma, who has admitted to massacring eight elementary school students in 2001, said he is not guilty by reason of insanity.

But their hopes that he might be spared the death penalty when the ruling is handed down Aug. 28 were all but dashed following a final statement by Takuma himself.

"I have no concerns about dying," said the 39-year-old Takuma, reading from a series of handwritten notes that contained no apology or regret for his actions. "If it had been a kindergarten, I could have killed more children."

Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for Takuma, who has admitted to murdering the children during a stabbing spree at Osaka Kyoiku University Ikeda Elementary School in June 2001.

Thirteen other students and two teachers were also injured.

"His remarks mean he will be punished most severely," a clearly exhausted lead defense attorney Shigeki Totani later told a news conference.

About 90 percent of the closing argument centered on whether Takuma has sufficient mental competency to assume responsibility for his actions. Two psychiatric evaluations concluded he possesses the mental ability to take such responsibility.

The defense began their closing argument by retracing Takuma's troubled childhood, reminding the court that relatives and others who knew him when he was a child had previously testified that he showed signs of a personality disorder from the age of 2.

Addressing the prosecution's claims that Takuma was cognizant of his crimes and could therefore take legal responsibility for them, his lawyers argued that he is easily frustrated, cannot maintain long-term relationships, has a tendency to blame others and cannot distinguish between good and evil.

They concluded that Takuma's mind has deteriorated to the point where he cannot be held legally responsible for the slayings.

The defense team acknowledged there are many people who want Takuma put to death.

They urged the court to not bend to public pressure, ending with a quote from "Antigone" in which the heroine proclaims it is "not my nature to join in hating, but in loving."

The defense asked the court to rule with the same compassion Antigone shows her foes.

But the families of the slain children expressed confidence that Takuma would receive the death penalty.

In a joint statement released by a group of the parents, they declared the death penalty was appropriate, even though it wouldn't be enough to ease their grief.



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The Japan Times

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