In a Kyoto courtroom on Tuesday, a Japanese man admitted to starting a fire that killed 36 people at Kyoto Animation in 2019.
Now, the defense team for Shinji Aoba, 45, is arguing that he was mentally unstable at the time and that he should be acquitted or face a reduced sentence.
The attack: According various Japanese news media reports, Aoba broke into Kyoto Animation’s Studio 1 building on July 18, 2019. Once inside, he spread gasoline on employees and their workstations before lighting it and shouting, “Drop dead.” At the time, Aoba himself was still in the building and sustained life-threatening burns in the fire. As a result of the attack, 36 people died while 32 others were injured, some seriously.
The charges: Aoba faces five charges, including murder, attempted murder, and arson.
Why would Aoba attack the studio? Aoba believed the studio stole his work. Before the attack, Aoba had submitted a novel to a contest run by the studio, and he believed the studio stole ideas from the book. Police who apprehended Aoba near the studio on the day of the attack said that he told them as much.
What’s Aoba’s defense saying? Defense attorneys are arguing that he was suffering from delusions at the time of the attack and should not be held fully accountable for his actions that day. They’ve asked that if he is convicted, the court grant him a reduced sentence because of his “state of diminished capacity” at the time of the attack.
Appearing in court in a wheelchair and wearing a face mask on Tuesday, Aoba said:
I have done (what I have been accused of). That was the only way (I could get myself heard) at the time. I didn’t think so many people would die. Looking back, I’d gone too far.
What’s the prosecution saying? When Aoba was indicted in December 2020, prosecutors conducted a psychiatric evaluation, which found him competent to stand trial and concluded that he could be held criminally responsible for his actions. On Tuesday, prosecutors said that Aoba committed the attack after convincing himself that a director at the studio had stolen his ideas. They also suggested the Kyoto Animation fire wasn’t Aoba’s first plan for an attack. They say that Aoba previously went to Omiya Station in his home prefecture with six knives hoping to commit mass murder before he eventually scrapped that idea.
When will the court decide? Tuesday’s hearing was the first of 24 sessions planned for the trial, with a ruling scheduled for January 25, 2024.
All quotes were taken from The Japan Times