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Friday, March 16, 2012

Ichihashi fights life sentence in appeal


Staff writer

Seeking a reduction of his life sentence for the murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker, Tatsuya Ichihashi told the Tokyo High Court Thursday he did not intend to kill the 22-year-old British English teacher.

Lawyers for Ichihashi, who was given a life sentence by the Chiba District Court last July, argued at the start of his appeal trial that their client should serve 20 to 30 years for his crimes instead.

Ichihashi stressed the aim of his appeal was to correct factual errors presented in the district court trial, not simply to lighten the sentence it handed down.

Ichihashi was convicted of raping and murdering Hawker, whose body was found in a soil-filled bathtub at his apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, in March 2007. If recognized as unintentional, the killing would be considered second degree murder.

The district court ruled Ichihashi clearly intended to kill the Briton, who was working for the now-defunct Nova language school, based on its finding that he choked her for three minutes.

Ichihashi on Thursday reiterated his claim that he had his arm around her neck for only about a minute.

"I didn't know where my left arm was. If it was three minutes, I would have known if my left arm was under (Hawker's) neck," Ichihashi said at the high court. Three minutes "is incorrect."

Ichihashi's lawyers contended he only intended to keep Hawker from raising her voice and to put her back in a bathtub when he overpowered her and wrapped his arms around her at his apartment.

A prosecutor said there is no basis for the appeal and the district court ruling should stand.

The presiding judge of the three-judge panel read out in Japanese part of a letter written by Hawker's parents and two sisters.

"We (the Hawker family) believe the ruling of the district court was fair and satisfactory. We also believe there is no confusion on the factual recognition" of the district court, the judge said, reciting the letter.

Ichihashi remained at large for two years and seven months after fleeing his apartment barefoot in March 2007 when police came to quiz him on Hawker's disappearance, after being informed by her friends that he had stalked her.

At the district court trial, six lay judges joined three professional judges. There are no lay judges in high court trials.



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