(NEW YORK) — The American teenager arrested in connection with the killing of a young Irish woman in Japan will likely face a difficult court battle in a country that has a nearly 100 percent conviction rate.
Police have 20 days to decide whether to charge 19-year-old Richard Hinds with murder. He’s expected to remain behind bars until then, because bail is rarely granted to foreigners arrested in Japan.
Hinds was arrested on suspicion of killing 21-year-old Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong in her hotel room in the Shinjuku area on May 24.
Furlong was found strangled at the Keio Plaza Hotel, following a night out with friends, attending a concert by rapper Nicki Minaj. Police say a hotel employee went to check on Furlong’s room, after hearing a loud noise, and found her lying on the floor, with Hinds standing nearby.
“There’s no fooling around in Japan. They have a 99.9 [percent] conviction rate,” legal analyst Dana Cole told ABC News. “So normally when you’re arrested for a serious crime, you’re going nowhere.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department told ABC News that Hinds has admitted strangling Furlong, but told investigators he had no intention to kill her.
Andrew Furlong, the victim’s father, was interviewed by police in Japan last weekend and has requested the death penalty not be applied to Hinds, a relative told the Irish Times.
Capital punishment is legal in Japan, but is usually reserved for cases of multiple murders.
“He may be looking at ten to 15 years in custody. Still a long time, but nothing compared to the U.S., which is typically life in prison,” Cole said.
Hinds and 23-year-old American James Blackston had already been in custody on suspicion of molesting Furlong’s female friend, also an Irish national, inside a taxi the night of the murder.
Police say they decided to additionally charge Hinds with the killing after reviewing Furlong’s autopsy and examining surveillance footage from inside the hotel, though investigators would not elaborate on details.
Minaj tweeted her support for the Furlong family, saying: “Saddened to learn one of my precious fans; found tragically murdered in Japan. My love & prayers are with the family of Nicola Furlong”
Furlong was studying in the city of Takasaki, about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo.
Hinds is a well known Christian musician in the Memphis area, but had traveled abroad to work as a backup dancer to a Japanese R&B artist, according to WPTY-TV in Memphis. He planned to return home on June 20 before he was arrested.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Lauren del Valle, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN