Did Japan Execute the Wrong Man? – Iizuka Case

Photo taken near Iizuka CIty

Michitoshi Kuma was executed at the Fukuoka Detention Center in October 2008. He had always maintained innocence to the crime of which he was found guilty. Kuma’s family filed for a retrial in October 2009.

Kuma was found guilty of abducting, killing and dumping the bodies of two 7-year-old girls in 1992 in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture. He was arrested in 1994, but maintained his innocence.

Since there was no direct evidence linking Kuma to the crime, they relied on circumstantial evidence, including a testimony by an eyewitness that he saw the dark-blue vehicle which belonged to Kuma near the place where the victims’ bodies were found, and a fiber analysis which revealed that some pieces of fiber on the victims’ clothing was the same fiber from the seat from Kuma’s vehicle.

Another evidence against him was the result of a DNA testing conducted by the Police crime laboratory. Blood on the ground from where victims’ bodies were found were tested for a DNA profile, and they said that the DNA type matched Kuma’s.

The Fukuoka District Court sentenced him to death in 1999. The High Court as well as the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and his sentence was became finalized in 2006. He was hanged in 2008 at the age of 70.

Then, in 2009, the country was stirred by a finding in another high profile case, the Ashikaga Case (read about this case here). In Ashikaga case, a man was exonerated by the result of a new DNA test. It revealed that he was not the actual perpetrator.  There was a faulty DNA testing in the Ashikaga case which was conducted in 1992 (only a few years after the DNA testing became available for investigative purposes in Japan), the same time period that the DNA testing was done in Kuma’s case. The method of the testing used by the police crime lab in the Ashikaga case and Kuma‘s case was MCT 118 type testing. With this method of testing, the probability of a match in the population was only 1.2 persons in 1,000.

Kuma’s family and attorneys are now trying to exonerate Kuma. They filed for a retrial to the Fukuoka District Court in 2009, one year after his execution. There have been developments in the case. In March 2012, the District Court ordered the crime lab to send the DNA testing results to the Court.

There might be a possibility that further investigation will be made in the case. Did we execute an innocent man? It may become clear in the near future.

2 responses to “Did Japan Execute the Wrong Man? – Iizuka Case

  1. Pingback: Third Person’s DNA Found — Iizuka Case | Wrongful Convictions Blog

  2. Pingback: Aggiornamenti flash | il diritto c'è, ma non si vede

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