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.
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.”