Matsumoto said just 3 words in exams

Defense lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto on Tuesday disputed the findings of a psychiatrist who said he was mentally fit to stand trial in his appeal against the death sentence.

The 88-page report, filed Monday with the Tokyo High Court, said the convicted mastermind of the deadly 1995 sarin-gas attacks in Tokyo uttered just three words during examinations by the psychiatrist.

The report concluded that Matsumoto chose to remain silent “out of free will.”

Defense lawyers released the report because they are critical of the way the high court initiated the psychiatric examinations to decide if Matsumoto is able to understand his appeals trial.

The high court is expected to reach its decision by as early as mid-March.

“The examinations were conducted in secrecy, ignoring the principle of an open trial,” said one defense lawyer.

In three separate psychiatric examinations since September, Matsumoto spoke just three words in total.

Matsumoto said itai (it hurts) during a check of his physical condition when the psychiatrist tried to bend Matsumoto’s elbow.

He said chitto (a little) when asked if he had sometimes disagreed with his lawyers’ tactics during his trial in the Tokyo District Court. That court sentenced Matsumoto to death on murder and other charges in February 2004.

Matsumoto, 50, also said shinakute (didn’t do it), indicating he believes his lawyers did not defend him properly.

The report, which the lawyers released Tuesday, concluded that “meaningful conversation was barely possible.”

“If the defendant does not say anything, it is a silence chosen out of free will,” the report added.

According to the report, Matsumoto is able to understand the court proceedings.

Defense lawyers disputed the conclusion, saying the facts of the evaluation had been twisted by the psychiatrist.

As evidence Matsumoto could understand what was said to him, the report stated he momentarily lifted his right leg when asked to stand on one leg.

The report rejected arguments made by doctors hired by the defense team who found Matsumoto was in a “stupor.”

The report said while Matsumoto needed help from caregivers to use the lavatory, he could feed himself and bathe if given instructions.

The report also said Matsumoto underwent a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan on Dec. 22, 2004. The MRI found nothing irregular. It was the first acknowledged time Matsumoto had left the detention house, except for court appearances.

Prior to the high court’s expected decision on his mental fitness, prosecutors and defense lawyers will have a chance to state their positions.

Defense lawyers have been asked to submit their opinion paper by March 15.

Once the Tokyo High Court decides whether Matsumoto is fit to stand trial, it will next consider whether to end court proceedings because defense lawyers failed to submit the necessary appeal documents by the August 2005 deadline.

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The Asahi Shimbun, Japan
Feb. 22, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 23, 2006.
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