Shinji Aoba, the arsonist behind the Kyoto Animation fire which took place in July 2019, was given the death penalty by presiding judge Keisuke Matsuda on Jan 25, 2023.
The ruling noted that Aoba was neither insane nor was of diminished capacity when he committed the crime, which made him liable for his actions.
Judge Matsuda pointed out that Aoba had hesitated to commit the crime right before it happened. The judge also acknowledged that Aoba had suffered from delusions based on the psychiatric evaluations carried out post indictment.
However, he stated that Aoba had committed the arson on Kyoto Animation on his own will, labeling the act atrocious and inhumane.
“The horror and pain of the victims who died in Studio 1, which turned into a hell in an instant, or who died afterward, is beyond description,” judge Matsuda said.
During the trial Aoba, 45, had admitted to igniting the fire at Kyoto Animation that resulted in the tragic loss of 36 lives – the worst mass killing in almost 20 years. He also expressed his regret at his actions and stated that he only commited the crime because he thought Kyoto Animation had stolen his novel.
The KyoAni president had, however, denied the claims of the arsonist.
Since Aoba admitted that he committed the crime, the focus of the trial was to judge whether the defendant was mentally competent.
The defense claimed that Aoba was in a state where he could not distinguish reality from fiction while setting fire to the animation studio. In their closing argument, they argued that Aoba should not be handed a death penalty, which the prosecutors were gunning for and that he should be acquitted or given a reduced sentence because of his mentally incompetent state at the time of the attack.
A devastating fire had broken out at KyoAni’s Studio 1 building on July 18, 2019. At the time, there were 70 people inside the building. The fire claimed the lives of 36 people and injured 33 more. Aside from the victims inside the building, the smoke also injured a man in his forties who was on his way to work.
Kyoto Animation’s productions were initially paused after the attack, and the onset of the pandemic further delayed its projects.
As a fresh comeback from the two-year aftershock of the tragedy, the studio resumed its production activities with the release of the second season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
Two memorials, as a symbol to honor the arson attack victims, are set to be unveiled on July 18, 2024, in order to mark the 5th anniversary of the incident.