The facts and figures surrounding Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara's almost eight-year trial are extraordinary. If all of the roughly 56,000 sheets of paper said to have been used to document his trial were stacked in a single column, it would stand about 10 meters, the height of a four-story building. Legal experts describe a case as being major when documentation exceeds 10,000 sheets.
The Tokyo District Court, the nation's busiest district court, held 257 sessions in the trial of Asahara, second only to the trial of Hiromasa Ezoe, with 322. Ezoe, the founder and former chairman of Recruit Co., who was found guilty and handed a suspended sentence for his role in a stock-for-favors scandal.
A total 171 witnesses took the stand during the guru's trial, 159 for the prosecution, eight for the defense and four who testified for both. In comparison, 121 witnesses appeared for the Recruit trial.
A total of 1,258 hours were spent on the trial, of which the defense used 1,052, indicating that much time was spent cross-examining prosecutors' evidence and allegations.
Asahara's state-appointed lawyers had received about 420 million yen in remuneration as of the end of July. A dozen attorneys were initially assigned to defend Asahara, 48, one of whom later became his privately hired lawyer.
Asahara's trial drew massive public attention, with a record 12,292 people lining up for the draw for one of the 48 gallery seats available for his first trial session on April 24, 1996. A lottery had to be held in 171 of the sessions.
The fewest number of people from the general public to appear for a session was the 13 at the 244th session in January. On Friday, 4,658 people lined up for the 39 public audience seats available to hear his sentencing.
"I wanted to see the last (trial of) Asahara," said Masuo Nishio, one of those waiting.
Nishio, 70, was working at a Tokyo hospital when Aum members released sarin in the subway system in March 1995.
The government will strengthen preventive measures against crimes similar to those involving Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara, and work to quicken criminal trial proceedings, the government's top spokesman said Friday. "The government will do its utmost to prevent similar cases from occurring again," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.
The trial lasted seven years and 10 months, and some, including victims of the crimes and their relatives, say the proceedings took too long.
"A quick trial is important," Fukuda said. "We believe (the present situation) will be improved and a quicker trial will be realized through (ongoing) judicial system reform."