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Mother on trial in child abuse case: I can’t forgive myself for daughter’s death

The Yomiuri ShimbunA mother on trial for her daughter’s death broke down in tears and said she could not forgive herself during a court hearing on Friday.

“I want to die. I want to go to a place where I can be with Yua,” said Yuri Funato, 27, crying and calling her daughter’s name during the fourth hearing of her lay judge trial under presiding Judge Minoru Morishita at the Tokyo District Court.

“I don’t know how to make up for it. I blame myself and will never forgive myself. I’m mortified and full of regret,” added an emotional Funato.

Funato was indicted for abandonment resulting in the death of her 5-year-old daughter. The child died in March 2018 in Meguro Ward, Tokyo.

Funato took the witness stand at around 4 p.m on Friday, toward the end of her two-day questioning. She looked dazed and did not respond to questions from her defense lawyer.

Shortly before that, her father appeared in court as a witness for the defense. He lived with Funato and Yua in Kagawa Prefecture for about a month, just before they moved to Tokyo in late January 2018.

The father spoke about the time he spent with his granddaughter, recalling that the girl would say, “Grandpa, your shoulder,” before giving him a shoulder massage. He expressed regret over the abuse, saying, “I wasn’t able to recognize [what was happening].”

Possibly upset over seeing her father talk about Yua, Funato remained silent even when her defense lawyer asked, “Can you answer?” and “Can’t you remember?” However, a few minutes later she mumbled, “I want to die,” and began to suddenly speak.

“If I stayed alive, I would hurt a lot of people. Only 20 or 30 years in prison isn’t enough to pay for my crime. I’m the only one to blame. What should I do? I need help, but there’s no answer for me because I’m not the victim,” she said.

Sobbing was heard from the gallery, while a lay judge was seen wiping away tears.

Funato was also questioned by lay judges on the day.

One of them asked about the violence inflicted on their daughter by her husband Yudai Funato, 34, who was also indicted on charges including abandonment resulting in death of a child.

“Even just once, did you try laying your life on the line to stop him [from abusing Yua]?” the lay judge asked.

“I never did,” Funato answered.

Another lay judge asked why she and Yudai often left Yua alone in the house in the month before she died. Funato said, “I could never tell him that I wanted to take Yua with us.”

The morning session on Friday was mainly given over to prosecutors’ questions. When a prosecutor asked Funato, “Did you not think Yua would die?” she answered, “I didn’t think so, but I was worried,” adding: “I told myself that she would be alright. I know it’s a selfish thought, but I believed, ‘Yua will be cured.’”

When asked, “Why didn’t you stop restricting Yua’s food after she lost weight?” Funato said: “It was my fault, but I was afraid of Yudai. Yudai got angry when I fed Yua, so I thought it would be less stressful for her if I didn’t feed her.”

The defense has argued that Funato was the victim of “psychological domestic violence” inflicted by Yudai, rendering her incapable of stopping the abuse.

“I think the defendant was unable to make realistic judgments because of the domestic violence,” said a psychiatrist who appeared in court as a defense witness. “It’s a typical horrifying example of what happens when domestic violence and child abuse occur together.”

The trial will end on Monday after closing arguments by the prosecution and defense, among other procedures. The ruling will be handed down on Sept. 17.

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