Memphis musicians trial begins in Japan - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis musicians trial begins in Japan

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

When he moved from Memphis to Japan in April 2012, Richard Hinds was hoping one day his talent would make the whole world fall at his feet.  Yet a month later he found himself with the weight of the world firmly clamped down on his shoulders as he faced a first degree murder charge.

One night of fun now threatens to insure a lifetime of regret for a Memphis teenager half a world away from home.

Another nightfall engulfs the swank Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo Japan.  It's a sight Memphis musician 19-year old Richard Hinds hasn't seen since the sun set there on a fatal evening more than nine months ago.  Now after building what appears to be an airtight case, Japanese prosecutors are aggressively going after the 2011 graduate of Central High School to convict him for the murder of 21-year old Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong.  As his trial began on Monday, University of Memphis International Law expert, Boris Mamliuk, believes attorneys representing the young keyboardist face an uphill defense against a first degree murder charge.  Mamliuk says, "There is no indications that the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, although they are seeking a harsh punishment because of the sexual nature of the crime.  It appears that there was a confession.  That Richard Hinds actually did admit to killing her.

MORE:  Memphis Musician Arrested in Japan

FOX 13 News first told you of Hinds' plight last May.  With his older brother Claude on tour as sidemen for Japanese singer A-I, Hinds joined American Dancer James Jamari Blackston for a night on the town after a performance.  Police alleged Hinds and Blackston shared a taxi with Furlong and a female companion. Hours later Furlong's body was discovered in a Keio Hotel room where they also found Hinds.  At trial Hinds has admitted to lightly pressing Furlong's neck while they were having sex.  However, he denied suffocating her with a towel as prosecutors allege.  Hinds' defense team is suggesting she died of an overdose of alcohol and drugs. Most damaging to Hinds, who is being tried as an adult, was the presentation in court of footage from inside the taxi which showed Furlong and her friend unconscious as they traveled to the hotel. The cab driver also testified the two female students were carried into the hotel in wheelchairs. Blackston faces charges of sexually assaulting Furlong's friend. 

"According to statistics, the conviction rate on criminal cases in Japan is higher than 99 percent. So, to the extent that he has an attorney and will be able to present his case at court. It does not bode well for him," says Mamliuk.

What also hasn't worked in Hinds' favor has been a lack of publicity about his case in the United States.  Unlike college student, Amanda Knox, whose conviction for murdering a roommate in Italy was eventually overturned due to rabid public support.  Hinds' case has flown under the radar except for heavy coverage from Irish media outlets covering the Furlong family.  Hind's trial is expected to continue until March 19th.

"Richard Hinds in this case is fully subject to the laws of the State of Japan. There is nothing that the United States really can do to use their own legal standards or tempos on to this case," says Mamliuk.

James Blackston is on trial at the same time as Hinds on the sexual assault charge.  If he's convicted he could face a four year sentence.

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