Kyoto Animation arson-murder trial hears mental competence arguments

Prosecutors and lawyers for a man accused of killing 36 people in Kyoto Animation gave more details in court Monday on their arguments over his mental competency.

The defendant Aoba Shinji has been charged with murder and arson after setting fire to an office in July 2019 in an assault that also left 32 people injured.

Public prosecutors reiterated Monday that Aoba was mentally competent enough to be held fully responsible for the incident. Aoba's lawyers entered a not guilty plea because of his mental condition. They spoke at Aoba's trial at the Kyoto District Court.

Prosecutors said the defendant acted at his own discretion to carry out his plan while understanding that it was a crime, noting that he hesitated at the last moment to commit arson.

They said the murders were committed because the defendant's life didn't go the way he had wanted. The prosecutors noted that these disappointments included the rejection of his novel by the studio he attacked. They say the defendant fell into a pattern of assaulting others.

The prosecutors said Aoba's delusions at the time of the crime had only a limited effect on him.

Some bereaved family members and lawyers also attended. They said the defendant is extremely self-centered, as he only thought of his novel rather than the lives of the 36 victims. They also said it cannot be said that the delusion he had at the time of the crime influenced his action.

In the court room, Aoba listened to their arguments and looked at those testifying while sometimes closing his eyes.

The defendant's lawyers argued that Aoba had a serious delusional disorder at the time of the crime. They said the rejection of his novel was not the only cause of the crime. They said it was his experiences and anger in the delusion for more than 10 years that made him lose the ability to know what is right and wrong, as well as to control his own behavior. They argued that he was mentally incompetent.

The judges and lay judges are expected to discuss behind closed doors whether the defendant was mentally competent.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on January 25.