Home International Tokyo High Court Oks Retrial Of 2 Convicts Over 1967 Murder-robbery

Tokyo High Court Oks Retrial Of 2 Convicts Over 1967 Murder-robbery

By Bernama,

Tokyo : The Tokyo High Court decided Monday to reopen a 1967 murder-robbery case in Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture, citing ”serious” doubts about the witness accounts and the initial confessions of the two convicted men, Kyodo news reported.

“There remain serious doubts over the defendants’ confessions and witness accounts, casting reasonable doubt on the guilty ruling,” Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kadono said, approving the retrial sought by the two men — Shoji Sakurai and Takao Sugiyama, both 61, who were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Even if prosecutors appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court, the top court is likely to reject it and start the first retrial on a life imprisonment or capital case since 1987.

Six such cases have been retried since 1976, in all of which the defendants have been found not guilty, according to the Supreme Court.

Sakurai and Sugiyama were indicted for the murder of carpenter Shoten Tamamura, 62, and theft of 100,000 yen in cash from the victim in August 1967.

The case came to be known as the ”Fukawa Incident” in reference to the name of an area in the town of Tone.

During the trial, the two men said they were coerced by investigators into making the confessions.

Following their parole in 1996, the Mito District Court’s Tsuchiura branch accepted their petition for a retrial in September 2005 and gave the go-ahead for a retrial on the grounds that the reliability of the defendants’ confessions had become suspect.

The prosecutors subsequently objected to the court decision.

The men have served some 29 years in prison since their arrest.

Presiding Judge Kadono ruled, ”The defendants flip-flopped on their statements, and their remarks on crucial matters, such as how to kill the victim, go against the objective facts.

“Criticising the use of ”substitute prison,” known as ”Daiyo Kangoku” in Japanese, Kadono said the defendants had been put in a situation that was likely to induce false confessions.

The ”Daiyo Kangoku” system is used to keep pretrial suspects in police custody.

The case lacked material evidence, with the prosecution depending on the men’s confessions.

Sakurai and Sugiyama initially appealed for a retrial in 1983, which the top court eventually rejected in 1992.

They filed a second retrial petition in December 2001.