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Friday, Aug. 29, 2003

Takuma sentenced to death; tells lawyer he won't appeal

Staff writer

OSAKA -- Mamoru Takuma, 39, was sentenced to death Thursday for the murder of eight schoolchildren at Ikeda Elementary School in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in June 2001.

News photo
Guards escort Mamoru Takuma out of an Osaka District Courtroom on Thursday after a judge ordered him removed for trying to make unauthorized remarks. KYODO ILLUSTRATION

"The crime has no historical precedent, and the anger and pain of the families who lost their children is great. There is no alternative but the death penalty," said presiding Judge Masayuki Kawaai of the Osaka District Court.

Takuma was absent when the verdict was handed down. He was ejected from the courtroom after he demanded to read from three pages of handwritten notes before the sentence was given.

"Let me speak, I'm getting the death penalty," Takuma told the judge immediately after being led into the courtroom. "If you let me speak, I'll be quiet."

But the judge refused. Takuma became agitated and began arguing, and the judge kicked him out. As he was being removed, Takuma continued to shout that he be allowed to speak, and several family members in the audience broke into tears.

Immediately afterward, Kawaai announced the death penalty.

According to one of Takuma's lawyers, he said after the ruling he would not appeal the sentence.

Takuma did not seem surprised with the death sentence, and told his counsel he has no chance of reversing the decision because the court rejected much of the defense's argument, the lawyer said.

He reportedly said he would "feel more at ease" if the death sentence is finalized, rather than continuing life at the detention house during the appeal process. The lawyer said he would try to persuade Takuma to change his mind.

According to the ruling, Takuma stormed into Ikeda Elementary School on June 8, 2001, and used a knife to stab to death seven girls and one boy, and injure 13 other children and two teachers. He was arrested at the scene.

While Takuma's defense had argued that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, the court said in a nearly 30-page ruling that he was sane enough to be held accountable for his actions.

"There is no room for doubt. The defendant had sufficient mental ability to take responsibility for the crimes he committed," the judge said.

The court noted that the murders were premeditated and Takuma had carefully planned the crime. It cited two psychiatric evaluations that concluded Takuma possessed enough mental awareness to take responsibility for his actions.

After the ruling, parents and relatives of the murdered children said the outcome was entirely expected and deserved.

"Not once during the trial did Takuma show any sign of remorse for his actions. It is only natural that he was given the death sentence," said the mother of Kana Tsukamoto, one of the victims. "My only regret is that he was not in the courtroom when the sentence was given."

Others were unhappy with the trial's proceedings, noting that there were still unanswered questions about Takuma's reasons for the crimes.

"What we learned is that Japan's court system protects those who commit crimes, not the victims of the crimes," said the mother of Maki Sakai. "It's disappointing that more attempts weren't made to address questions the families had about why Takuma did what he did."

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The Japan Times

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