The Tokyo High Court has rejected the latest objection filed by the defense team for Aum Supreme Truth cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto against the decision in March to dismiss an appeal against the death sentence that was handed down on Matsumoto.
The decision suggests there was no reason that could be upheld in court in the objection filed by the defense team for Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara.
The 10th criminal affairs division of the Tokyo High Court decided in late March to dismiss the appeal made by Matsumoto’s defense team. Under law, if the defense council objects to a court’s rejection of an appeal, it can appeal to another panel of judges at the same court, which it did.
The petition by the defense team was examined this time by the 11th criminal affairs division of the court, which also rejected the appeal.
Enough of the delaying tactics
The 10th division turned down the appeal filed by the defense council because it had failed to present a statement of reasons for the appeal by the prescribed deadline.
The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that a high court shall reject an appeal on a lower court ruling if a defense team fails to submit the statement of reasons for an appeal by a designated date.
In filing its complaint, the defense team said the high court’s decision to dismiss the appeal just one day before the day when the team had said it would submit the statement of reasons to the court constituted obstruction to the submission.
But the date the defense team said it would submit the statement was about 14 months later than the deadline set by the court.
The 11th division ruled that the court does not say that it will defer a decision until the statement of reasons for appeal is submitted. With regard to the statement that the defense team submitted after the high court’s dismissal, the 11th division pointed out that the statement was light in both content and the volume, and therefore could have been submitted by the designated date.
Despite this, the team failed to submit the statement by the designated date, “solely because it intended to delay the lawsuit,” the 11th division said.
In light of all the other evidence, this was a reasonable decision. The latest court rejection of the complaint by the defense team also is appropriate.
Matsumoto, who was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court about two years ago, has not expressed any intention of appealing to the high court.
Although the Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on the case, the defense team’s tactic of disobeying the rules has in fact brought the trial closer to an end.
What price the search for truth?
However, some observers have said it is problematic that such a serious case as the Aum Supreme Truth cult trial is to be cut short due to a procedural mistake by the defense team.
The reality is that 10 years and one month have passed since the trial of Matsumoto started in April 1996. And over these years, Matsumoto has refused to take the court proceedings seriously.
“As the trial has been prolonged, some bereaved families have already died without learning the court’s final decision,” said one person who lost kin as a result of crimes committed by the cult. This remark epitomizes the voices of bereaved family members.
There are many riddles remaining in the crimes committed by the cult. There are those who say Matsumoto’s trial should continue until the truth is learned. But would this be feasible?
The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates the purposes of a criminal trial as “to apply and realize criminal laws and ordinances in an appropriate and prompt manner,” and to reveal the truth.
The importance of speedy trials is growing with the implementation of the lay judge system in the offing.