The Kagoshima District Court will decide whether to opne a retrial for a 34-year-old case (so called Ohsaki/ Osaki Case) tomorrow. This is a case where confessions were crucial pieces of evidence in determining the defendant’s guilt. Ayako Haraguchi, now 85 years of age, is seeking a retrial for the 2nd time. Will she get her day in court?
On October 15th 1979, the victim’s body was found in a barn in Ohsaki, Kagoshima Prefecture. The victim had been missing for 3 days. The police immediately suspected that the victim’s two older brothers, A and B, murdered him. After A and B confessed to the crime, they were arrested on the 18th. B’s son was also arrested on the 25th. On the 30th, A’s former wife, Ayako Haraguchi was also arrested, based on A and B’s confessions.
Haraguchi never confessed to the crime. However, the other three all confessed. They named Haraguchi as the principal, and admitted that they killed the victim by strangling him with a towel.
In March 1980, the Kagoshima District Court decided that Haraguchi was guilty of the murder. The sentence was 10 years in prison. Haraguchi lost the appeals, and served the time.
Haraguchi got out of prison in 1990, and petitioned to retry the case in 1995. Haraguchi alledged that the victim died by accident and that confessions by A and B were false confessions, forced by the police. In fact, there were various facts that contradicted their confessions. The victim may have died from an accident, not killed by someone. Also, other defendants in this case all had intellectual disabilities. The District Court granted the motion to retry the case in 2002. However, the High Court reversed the decision in 2004.
In her second petition for retrial, Haraguchi brought in the following new evidence: (1) a report by a forensic pathologist which states that the victim’s cause of death could not have been strangulation by a towel, (2) the fact that the objective condition of the carpet in the crime scene did not match the confessions, and (3) a report by psychologists that the confessions by A and B did not state their actual experiences.
How will the District Court rule this time? We will find out tomorrow on March 6th.