By Barrier Free Japan
January 14th 2020
Monday 13th January was a national holiday in Japan, it was ‘Coming of Age Day’, so with some other public services, the courts did not sit in Japan. Barrier Free Japan felt this was a good time to recount the first few days in ‘Sagamihara Massacre’ trial, and offer a kind of ‘timeline’ of the trial thus far:
JANUARY 8 2020 The defendant, Satoshi Uematsu, aged 29, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in court, insisting he was mentally incompetent. He admitted to the attack during the first court hearing at the Yokohama District Court, but his defense team argued he should not be held responsible as he was either mentally incompetent or had a diminished capacity.
According to the indictment, Uematsu, a former employee of the care home, stabbed 19 people to death and injured 24 others at Tsukui Yamayuri En in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, in the early hours of July 26, 2016. Kiyoshi Aonuma is the Presiding Judge.
He is also accused of hurting two employees of the facility by binding them to handrails in a corridor of the building. These two employees’ and their injuries are not included in the indictment
Uematsu voiced his “deep apologies to everyone” but soon after started shaking violently and tried to bite the little finger of his right hand, prompting the hearing to be suspended for 15 minutes. The hearings continued later that day without the defendant.
As many as 1,944 people entered the lottery for the gallery seats available at Yokohama District Court to observe the trial.
JANUARY 10 2020 – After having seemingly attempting to bite his hands defendant appeared wearing gloves on both hands.
Uematsu lowered his head several times toward the seats set aside for the bereaved and the prosecutor’s seat. At the beginning of the trial, the presiding judge stated that he was regrettable about Uematsu’s actions in the first trial, and urged him to refrain from such behavior in the future.
During the session on the 10th, prosecutors explained to lay judges the victims’ wounds and causes of deaths, while presenting images of the attack site.
Uematsu’s mental competency is the focus of his trial, with the defense saying he was suffering a mental disorder triggered by marijuana use at the time of the attack. The prosecutors argue that while he holds unusual views, he is fully responsible for his actions.
A statement was taken by from an employee who was detained by the defendant. The employee testified that the defendant would ask if a potential victim could talk when choosing whether to attack them.
Specifically the employee stated that, “the defendant asked,” Can you talk? “And Mr. A said “I can’t talk. “The defendant peeled off the futon from one of the victims, Mr. A, and stabbed him several times with a kitchen knife in the lower back.