The prosecutors in the case against the suspected Kyoto Animation arsonist, Shinji Aoba, held a conference for the families of the victims on June 10, revealing the timeline of the trial over the next seven months, how it will flow and that the prosecutors will focus on if the suspect has the capacity to take criminal responsibility, according to the NHK.
Aoba was charged in December 2020 with arson, attempted murder, breaking and entering, violating the firearms and sword control law, and the murder of 36 people — the largest mass murder in Japan since the Showa era — including the injury of 32 other victims in the Kyoto Animation arson attack in July 2019.
According to prosecutors, the trial will focus on the extent of the suspect’s criminal liability during the day’s events based on the two psychiatric evaluations run before the trial, with attention to how Aoba answers questions during the cross-examination period. According to The Mainichi Shimbun and The Sankei News, the defense is understood to argue for a reduced sentence or acquittal if found guilty, due to Aoba’s supposed mental state during the events.
According to the NHK, the first aspect of the trial will be held on September 5 with an arraignment, where Aoba will be read the charges against him and asked if he pleads guilty or not guilty to those charges. Questioning will begin the next day, with the prosecution taking the lead on most questioning. Family members of those who were lost will also get to ask the suspect questions via Japan’s victim participation system.
Alongside being able to ask questions directly to the suspect, family members will also have preferential treatment for seating in the courtroom.
From late September to October, witnesses will take the stand for the prosecution to give testimonies. These include witnesses on the scene, Kyoto City firefighters and the president of Kyoto Animation, Hideaki Hatta. The two doctors who performed the psychiatric evaluations will testify in late October.
The prosecution and the defense did their own evaluations before the court case to see if Aoba was fit to sit trial due to his extensive injuries and supposed mental state.
Interim statements and arguments from both sides will be presented in early November, while the rest of the month will see the judge and lay judges (members of the public that assist judges in determining guilt) deliberate Aoba’s degree of accountability and present their conclusion.
On December 7, the prosecution’s final argument and sentencing requests will be heard alongside the defense’s final statement.
As previously reported, the final verdict and punishment will be handed down on January 25, with a now-confirmed time of around 10:30 a.m. Japan time.
Daryl Harding is a Senior Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.