TOKYO - An American man accused of strangling an Irish exchange student in Tokyo told a Japanese court Monday he had no intention of killing the woman but acknowledged he was with her the night she died.
As his trial began, 19-year-old Richard Hinds of Memphis, Tennessee, denied intentionally suffocating Nicola Furlong last May 24. He acknowledged he and Furlong, 21, were in a hotel and said he lightly pressed her neck while the two had sex.
"I do not believe I was the cause of her death," Hinds told the court. "I had no intent or reason to hurt, harm or kill her."
Furlong came to Tokyo with a friend to see a concert the night she died. After the concert, the two met Hinds and another man, James Blackston, and went with them to a bar. Prosecutors allege Hinds and Blackston got the two women drunk and may have drugged them before taking them by taxi to a hotel in central Tokyo, where they borrowed wheelchairs to get the unconscious women to their rooms.
Furlong was later found unconscious in her room after another guest complained of a loud noise. She died after being taken to a hospital. The defense suggested she died of an overdose of alcohol and drugs.
Prosecutors say Hinds strangled Furlong with a towel and have charged him with murder. They say Hinds has shown no remorse and should be punished severely.
Although murder in Japan can carry the death penalty, prosecutors were not expected to seek it. Blackston faces a maximum of four years on charges of sexually assaulting Furlong's friend in a separate room.
The verdict for Hinds was scheduled to be announced March 19. Blackston's trial was expected to conclude March 13.