Category Archives: Asia

First Execution This Year in Japan

The first execution in 2014 was carried out on June 26 in Japan. This was the 9th execution under the Abe administration. Many organizations, including Japan Federation of Bar Associations, EU and Amnesty International , immediately filed a statement opposing the execution.

From the Japan Times:

Man who killed three, including kids, hanged
by Tomohiro Osaki

Brushing aside renewed public concerns over capital punishment, the government executed a 68-year-old death row inmate Thursday morning for three “brutal” and “selfish” murders committed seven years ago. Two of the victims were children.

In November 2007, Masanori Kawasaki sneaked into the Kagawa Prefecture home of Keiko Miura, his 58-year-old sister-in-law, and stabbed her multiple times. He also knifed to death the victim’s two grandchildren, Akane Yamashita, 5, and Ayana, 3. Kawasaki then buried their bodies nearby.

The Supreme Court finalized his death penalty in July 2012.

Thursday’s execution comes as public concern over capital punishment flared anew in March after the release of Iwao Hakamada, the world’s longest-serving death row inmate, upon a review of the DNA evidence that found Hakamada spent nearly five decades behind bars for murders he almost certainly didn’t commit.

Japan and the United States are the only Group of Eight industrialized nations that put people to death.

At a news conference after the hanging, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki condemned Kawasaki’s deeds as “brutal” and “driven by selfish reasons,” noting the killings left kin grief-stricken to an “unimaginable degree.”

As he did following previous executions, Tanigaki defended the hanging as the outcome of “careful scrutiny.”

“We went over his case repeatedly before greenlighting his hanging,” Tanigaki said.

Of the 129 inmates now on death row, 89 are seeking retrials and 24 amnesty.

When asked to comment on the timing of the hanging, Tanigaki declined to elaborate.

“As justice minister, I consider it my highest priority to do everything in my capacity to confirm if an individual really committed the deed they are held culpable for” to avoid wrongful executions, he said.

Tanigaki added that he doesn’t think the capital punishment system needs to be reviewed at this time.

Human rights group Amnesty International was quick to express outrage, saying the hanging ignored the global community’s calls on Japan to end the “dehumanizing” practice.

Regarding the Hakamada incident, the group said the government is deeply reproachable for leaving him exposed to the terror of a looming execution for nearly five decades despite “extremely high odds of his innocence.”

“The government should take this fact seriously and do its utmost to overhaul the current criminal justice system. And as a first step for that, we believe it’s imperative capital punishment be suspended immediately,” the group said, adding that few details of the death penalty are disclosed to the public. The Japan Federation of Bar Association, too, issued a statement demanding capital punishment be halted and more information be disclosed to the public to spur a robust debate on the issue.

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Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

A Push to Aid American Couple Held in Child’s Death in Qatar

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/world/middleeast/a-push-to-aid-couple-held-in-childs-death-in-qatar.html?referrer=

http://bit.ly/1mSlVTv

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Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

www.redinocente.org
www.californiainnocenceproject.org

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Man exonerated of rape charges in Sweden after 10 years in prison; now Sweden’s long-serving exoneree
  • In China, a long road to justice in recent double exoneration case
  • Rob Warden writes that the death April 20 of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, middleweight prizefighter, heavyweight champion of the wrongfully convicted, is a vivid reminder of a plague that has long corrupted the criminal justice system — perjury by prosecution witnesses who have ulterior motives to lie.  Article….
  • Alaska Innocence Project gearing up for May hearing in the Fairbanks Four case
  • Article on how bad science leads to wrongful convictions
  • New judges’ training program in Bangladesh warns new judges to be vigilante against wrongful convictions
  • More strange twists and turns in the Montana case of Cody Marble

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Breaking News: Court Decides to Reopen Hakamada Case

Previous posts on Hakamada case here and here.

This is a case from 1966. Iwao Hakamada has been held in confinement for 48 years. He is at Tokyo Detention Center, on death row.

Shizuoka District Court granted Hakamada’s petition for retrial today, saying that a new DNA testing result indicates that one crutial piece of evidence did not come from Hakamada.

It is the 6th time since 1945 that the courts grant a retrial in a death penalty case. However, the prosecutors still have a chance to appeal the decision.

PostScript:
Iwao Hakamada was released from the Tokyo Detention Center at around 17:20 JST on March 27th, 2014.

From Mainichi Shimbun News:
Court decides to reopen 1966 murder of 4

SHIZUOKA, Japan (Kyodo) — The Shizuoka District Court decided Thursday to reopen a high-profile 1966 murder case in which a former professional boxer has been on death row for more than 30 years for killing four people.

The court also decided to suspend the death penalty for Iwao Hakamada, 78, who was convicted of murdering Fujio Hashimoto, 41-year-old managing director of a soybean processing firm, his wife and their two children and setting fire to their home on June 30, 1966, in Shimizu city, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is now a part of Shizuoka city, as well as his detention.

During the petition for a retrial, his defense lawyers obtained DNA test results that indicated the DNA-type from blood stains detected on five pieces of clothing, which were said to have been worn by the culprit, is different from Hakamada’s.

Accepting the argument, Presiding Judge Hiroaki Murayama said, “The clothes were not those of the defendant,” indicating the possibility that investigators had fabricated the evidence.

Murayama also said, “It is unjust to detain the defendant further, as the possibility of his innocence has become clear to a respectable degree.”

It is the sixth time in postwar Japan that a court has approved a retrial for a defendant for whom capital punishment had been finalized. Of the other five, four were acquitted.

Hakamada, a live-in employee at the soybean processing firm, temporarily admitted to the charges after being arrested in August 1966, but changed his plea to one of innocence from the first court hearing.

Despite his plea, the Shizuoka District Court sentenced him to death in 1968, with the sentence finalized by the Supreme Court in 1980.

He filed his first appeal for a retrial in 1981, which was rejected by the top court in 2008, prompting his sister Hideko, 81, to file a second appeal immediately.

Despite the district court decision, it may still take time before a retrial can begin as prosecutors, who argued that the reliability of the DNA test is low, are expected to appeal the decision to the Tokyo High Court.

The defense team has urged prosecutors not to appeal, given that Hakamada’s mental state has deteriorated during almost 50 years in prison. Amnesty International Japan also issued a statement seeking the immediate start of a retrial, saying, “It is not too much to say that the unfair, long-time detention of a death row inmate is torture.”

After hearing the decision, Hideko said, “I am truly thankful,” while Katsuhiko Nishijima, who heads the defense team, said, “Mr. Hakamada’s strong desire has finally been attained.”

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Interesting write-up on the National University of Singapore’s Innocence Project

For an interesting student write-up on the National University of Singapore’s student-run Innocence Project see here. Way to go!

Singapore: A Need to Reconsider the Accused Person’s Constitutional Right to Counsel

The Singapore High Court recently considered the right of an accused to counsel in the case of James Raj s/o Aroliasamy v PP [2014] SGHC 10 (available here). Article 9 (3) of the Singapore Constitution recognises the right of an arrested person to consult counsel, but does not expressly state the point of time at which the person can do so. Singapore Courts have consistently held that an accused does not have an immediate right to consult counsel. Rather the right to counsel is to be exercised within “reasonable time”. Case law has interpreted such “reasonable time” to include the time needed for police investigations, which would otherwise be hampered by permitting the accused access to counsel.

What is interesting about the High Court’s judgement in James Raj s/o Aroliasamy v PP is that the Judge voiced some doubt about how previous case law had narrowly interpreted the right to counsel. The Judge nevertheless stated that he was bound to follow precedent. Even so, the Judge affirmed that the Prosecution bore the burden of showing why permitting access to counsel would jeopardise investigations in a particular case. It was not enough for the Prosecution to point to, inter alia, the complex or cross-border nature of the case. Rather, the Prosecution had to specifically explain why permitting access to counsel would jeopardise investigations in that case.

The High Court’s judgement reflects the increased willingness of Singapore Courts to closely supervise the work of the Prosecution and other criminal justice agencies. However, it is perhaps time for the Court of Appeal to reconsider its interpretation of the constitutional right to counsel in light of the High Court’s assessment of previous case law in James Raj s/o Aroliasamy v PP.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Ex-detention officer tells court how death row inmates are executed

Japan still retains the death penalty. Polls suggest that the majority of citizens (more than 85%) support the ultimate punishment. However, when talking with friends or students, I often find that people do not necessarily know about the punishment. Some do not even know how the executions are carried out.

This is also true in death penalty cases where the citizens participate as lay judges (saiban-in) and decide the facts and also the punishment. Lay judges do not know the situation of the death row inmates and executions, but they are asked to impose the punishment.

In an effort to let the lay judges know about the punishment at trial in deciding the sentence, some lawyers have called experts or ex-officers to testify. Here is a story about this effort.

from the Mainichi Japan:

OSAKA (Kyodo) — A former detention officer told a court Monday how death row inmates in Japan are treated and how they are executed during a trial of a murder-robbery case.

“The trapdoor on the floor opens and (death row inmates) fall at least 4 meters below and after they suffer cardiac arrest, they are left hanging for five minutes so they cannot be resuscitated,” detention officer-turned-writer Toshio Sakamoto told the Osaka District Court’s Sakai branch.

Sakamoto, known for his book “Record of an Executioner,” also said death row inmates are kept in solitary confinement except when they are allowed to exercise or take a bath.

Detention officers are informed about an execution the day before and try not to make it obvious to the inmate, he added.

Sakamoto was testifying on behalf of defendant Munehiro Nishiguchi, 52, who is charged with murdering Takeko Tamura, 67, in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, in November 2011 and robbing her of around 310,000 yen, as well as murdering Soshu Ozaki, 84, former vice president of household product manufacturer Zojirushi Corp., in Sakai a month later and robbing him of 800,000 yen.

February 25, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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Taiwan Association for Innocence Wins First Case….

Taiwan High Court Granted Retrial Based on New DNA Evidence

by Yu Ning Chen

In December 2013, Taiwan High Court granted Chen Long-Qi. a retrial based on new DNA Evidence. Chen became the first person to be granted retrial since the Taiwan Association for Innocence was founded in 2012.

On March 24, 2009, two escorts were raped between 4 to 6 AM in a warehouse that Chen and his friend rented for agricultural products distribution. The victims failed to identify the assailants due to alcohol intoxication.

Chen always maintained his innocence during the investigation and trial. He claimed that he left before the crime to pick up his wife, Ko, at her workplace. Ko’s timesheet corroborated Chen’s words. An eyewitness also testified that Chen was not at the scene. Despite no testimony linking Chen to the crime, the district court and high court found him guilty of gang rape with the other two co-defendants. The decision was solely based on a DNA test which concluded  that Chen “cannot be excluded “ from the semen stain found on one of the victims’ underwear . Chen was convicted of gang sexual assault and was sentenced to 4 years in March, 2013.

With help from the Taiwan Association for Innocence, Chen filed a motion for retrial in June, 2013 seeking to retest the DNA evidence. The court authorized a 23 loci STR test on the original mixture DNA sample. The new test result showed that Chen “can be excluded” from the DNA sample. Based on this new piece of evidence, the court granted his motion in December 2013. The retrial will begin this month.

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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Chinese saga of wrongful conviction finally ends after 16 years

A Chinese man who was sentenced to death and spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of a child was awarded US$160,000 compensation after his conviction was overturned, a court said. Li Huailiang stood trial seven times and was given three different sentences for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Pingdingshan in August 2001, Xinhua reported.

The farmer was condemned to death, then death with a two-year reprieve – a sentence normally commuted to life in prison – and after that, 15 years in jail.
Each time, the verdict was subsequently overturned “due to lack of evidence,’’ but he was not formally acquitted until April this year, when he was released from prison, Xinhua said. The Intermediate People’s Court in Pingdingshan, in central Henan, granted him 780,000 yuan (US$130,000) for the loss of “personal freedom’’ for 4,282 days spent in prison and a further 200,000 yuan for “psychological damage,’’ a statement posted on its website said.
Li had claimed 3.79 million yuan in total, the statement added.

Indian man freed by Delhi High Court after 14 years in prison

Bhupender Singh walked free on Friday after the Delhi High Court acquitted him of the 1999 murder of the wife of his former employer. Singh had been convicted in 2006, after fingerprints were found in his employers house. The fingerprint evidence was highly contentious, and never dealt with satisfactorily, but the High Court has now decided that Singh can go free, because there was not sufficient evidence for the conviction.

Read more here… HC acquits man of murder 14 yrs after he was jailed

China tries to curb miscarriages of justice as anger over torture, other abuses, grows

From Foxnews.com:

Chen Keyun’s legal nightmare began in 2001 when he was accused of detonating a bomb outside a Communist Party office in his southern coastal city of Fuqing.

Chen denied committing the crime but was held for 12 years, during which he was tortured into confession and twice sentenced to death. He finally was released and exonerated this year, a case that exemplifies the miscarriage of justice that China’s Supreme People’s Court now says it wants to curtail.

Last week, it released its first set of detailed recommendations for preventing wrongful convictions: Judges should presume defendants are innocent until proven guilty, reject evidence obtained through torture, starvation or sleep deprivation and refrain from colluding with police and prosecutors.

The moves reflect Chinese leaders’ recognition that an increasingly prosperous public is demanding a more predictable and fair justice system, though party officials are unlikely to fully loosen their grasp over the courts.

“It is of significance and if adopted seriously, it will effectively help prevent the occurrence of wrongful convictions,” said Prof. Tong Zhiwei, a legal expert at the East China Politics and Law University in Shanghai. “The question is whether the regulation will be fully implemented at local levels.”

The recommendations are seen more as an effort to build a more professional judiciary, one in which judges observe legal process and make rulings that are based on sound evidence — rather than grant courts full independence.

“If courts can be more independent, then these problems can be easily solved,” said Li Fangping, a prominent defense attorney in Beijing. “This guidance can only increase their independence a little bit. On technical issues, it will be of help, but as long as there are cases where there will be intervention, it won’t be of much use.”

In China, the party controls the courts, police and prosecutors. Some judges are not trained in law, and they rarely acquit defendants for fear of embarrassing their partners in law enforcement. Experts and defense lawyers say police commonly fabricate evidence or use torture to obtain confessions.

Chen Keyun was a manager of a state-owned labor recruiter in Fuqing when a bomb exploded in 2001 outside the city branch of the party agency that investigates cadres for corruption. The explosion killed an agency driver.

Attacks on offices that represent party or government power in China are treated with great urgency, with authorities moving swiftly to solve the case and punish perpetrators to send a message of zero tolerance.

Police turned to Chen as a suspect because he previously had been investigated by the anti-graft office and punished. Five others, including Chen’s driver Wu Changlong, Chen’s wife, Wu’s former brother-in-law and two migrant workers, also were arrested for involvement in the attack.

Police detained Chen, then 48, and in the two months that followed, he said, deprived him of sleep, beat him, starved him, and dangled him for hours by strapping his wrists to iron rods on a high window.

“They treated me like less than a dog,” Chen, now 60, said in a phone interview. “I was an old Communist Party cadre who had been about to retire, I had never thought that something like this could happen to me.”

Chen said he protested his innocence until he could no longer endure the torment.

His interrogators eventually forced him to sign a confession, though he later tried to retract it, telling other investigators he had been tortured. Chen’s lawyer took pictures months later showing deep welts on his wrists. Others accused in the case also said they were tortured.

The Fuzhou City Intermediate Court sentenced Chen and Wu to death with a two-year reprieve in 2004, and three of the others to various terms of imprisonment. The defendants appealed in 2005 and several domestic newspapers reported that they might have been wrongfully convicted. The Fujian provincial high court turned the case back to the city court and ordered a retrial.

In 2006, the Fuzhou court tried the case again and upheld the suspended death sentences for Chen and Wu. They appealed again, and in 2011 the provincial court tried the case yet again. In May, the court acquitted all five defendants.

The court offered compensation of about 4.2 million yuan ($690,000) to the five of them in September but they are demanding more, as well as an acknowledgement that they were tortured.

Chen’s is one of a few high-profile cases of wrongful convictions overturned in recent months. In March, a court in eastern Zhejiang province retried and acquitted two men who were convicted in 2004 of raping and murdering a woman, after DNA evidence from another case ruled out their involvement in the crime.

The Supreme People’s Court’s latest directive is seen as building on earlier comments by its president, Zhou Qiang, on the importance of preventing wrongful convictions. Rights activists say it is a welcome move, but may not be enough to curb abuses.

“The guidelines fail to address the structural problems that create wrongful convictions — police power that goes unsupervised, the lack of judicial independence, the absence of effective remedies when things go wrong, and weak defense rights,” said Maya Wang, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Hong Kong. “Thus it will be unlikely to achieve much impact on the ground.”

 

Chinese Supreme Court Cracks Down on False Confessions and Wrongful Convictions

From voanews.com:

China’s top court has ruled out forced confessions and vowed to reduce miscarriage of justice, in a move that highlights increasing policy emphasis on legal reform.

The directive, issued by China’s Supreme People’s Court on Thursday, is intended to strengthen the rule of law in a system that many analysts agree still lacks basic elements of judicial independence.

The court says that all levels of the judiciary are required to perform their duties strictly according to the law, base their judgments on facts, and protect human rights. It lists 27 provisions, including the protection of defendants’ right of attorney, the need for trials to be open and based on legally obtained evidence, and the elimination of confessions obtained through torture.

Encouraging sign

Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says the ruling is an encouraging sign that the government is responding to pressure from society demanding better rights protection during criminal trials.

“It gives a foothold to lawyers and legal reformers in China, it helps them put pressure on the police, on the courts, on the judicial system whenever they don’t act accordingly,” he says.

In recent years, China has introduced procedural mechanisms to guarantee defendants fair trials, including an amendment last year requiring police to allow lawyers to meet with their client within 48 hours after a request is filed.  Thursday’s court ruling is a step in that same direction – analysts say – in a system plagued by endemic problems of obtaining confessions through torture, wrongful convictions and persecution of lawyers.

Police remain powerful

But rights advocates say that despite court reforms, the powerful police in China still make the justice system unfair.  In a recent case, a Chinese official under investigation for corruption was tortured to death and drowned in a bathtub as police investigators were trying to break him into confession.

Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says that given that courts in China are often subservient to police departments, there are limits to what the courts – such as with Thursday’s provisions – can achieve.  “It is all well for the courts to say ‘oh, we are going to make sure we reduce wrongful convictions and torture,’ but the fact is they have very little leverage to do that because it is basically the police that are driving the criminal system in China,” he says.

Call for review of past cases

Li Zhuang, a criminal lawyer based in Beijing, says that to prove they are serious in implementing the documents, courts should start reviewing past cases where lawyers have presented proof of coerced testimony.

Li Zhuang was one of the lawyers targeted in a campaign against mafia in Chongqing, then the stronghold of now ousted politician Bo Xilai.  Li was charged with perjury after attempting to defend a local entrepreneur whose confession had been obtained through torture.

Li confessed wrongdoing and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.  “Contesting evidence has been provided that sufficiently overthrows that judgment, but it has been more than two years and there has been no review,” Li says. “We have to wait and see whether these provisions will be implemented on the ground. That is the next step.”  Li says there is little incentive for court officials to review cases because in many instances they have based career promotions on wrongful convictions.

In Chongqing, some of the city’s wealthiest entrepreneurs were put to jail based on confessions obtained through illegal means, and their assets were seized by the city government.  “Many assets seized during the campaign have been spent,” Li says. They used them to plant trees and organize red songs revivals. How can you give back money that has already been spent?”

Evolution of judicial reforms

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes days after China wrapped up an important party meeting and announced key reforms in a number of fields, including its legal system.  After much public pressure, party leaders pledged to scrap the system of re-education through labor – a notorious practice of administrative detention that gives the police rights to bypass courts and detain suspects without trial for up to three years.

Such amendments have been welcomed by legal scholars and professionals in China, but some believe that individual measures will be meaningless if they do not ensure independence of the legal system – which in China is still to a great extent under the yoke of the party and the public security apparatus.