Category Archives: Asia

Masaru Okunishi, Death Row Inmate seeking Retrial Dies at 89

A belated post on Nabari Case

From the Japan Times:
Death row inmate seeking retrial over 1961 wine-poisoning murders dies at 89
October 4, 2015 by Kyodo

An 89-year-old death row inmate who was seeking a retrial for his 1961 conviction over the infamous wine poisoning murders in Nabari, Mie Prefecture, died in a Tokyo prison Sunday, his lawyers said.

Masaru Okunishi, who was arrested in 1961 on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, initially admitting to lacing wine with an agricultural chemical that killed five women, including his wife, but retracted his confession before being indicted. Continue reading

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Prosecutors seek acquittal at a retrial hearing in Osaka (Japan)

From the Japan Times:

Prosecutors seek acquittal of man found guilty of raping girl

Kyodo, Aug. 19, 2015

Prosecutors sought an acquittal on Wednesday in a retrial hearing of a man in his 70s who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for rape and indecent assault.

The man, who had served three and a half years in prison, and his lawyer filed for a retrial last September based on new evidence. He was released last November and the Osaka District Court decided to launch a retrial in February.

The girl had admitted to giving false testimony, and a hospital record was found denying the sexual assault.

The hearing was concluded on Wednesday and the court will hand down its decision on Oct. 16.

During the hearing, the man pleaded not guilty and urged police, prosecutors and judges to look into why the false accusation was made.

The defense counsel criticized the courts that found him guilty for failing to detect the girl’s lie.

Police arrested the man in 2008 and the Osaka District Court found him guilty in 2009. The ruling was upheld by the Osaka High Court and was finalized by the Supreme Court.

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Executions in Japan — A Consideration of Judicial Hanging

I have posted in the past about how executions in Japan are carried out.

The Osaka Bar Association made a 25 minute segment on the mechanism of judicial hanging in Japan in 2014. It is now posted on its website. You can watch the English version here.

Please note that it contains forensic explanations of how hanging occurs and may be disturbing for some viewers.

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China’s Top Judge Apologizes to Nation for Wrongful Convictions

Can you imagine this happening in the U.S?  I have toured China 5 times in the past 5 years to discuss wrongful convictions with scholars, judges, prosecutors, etc.  They are hungry–at all levels, to fight this problem.  I can say that China’s government is making more of a concentrated effort to correct wrongful convictions that I have seen from any other government.

From source:

BEIJING-China’s top judge used a high-profile speech in Beijing to apologize for a spate of wrongful-conviction cases, part of an effort to shore up eroded public confidence in the country’s court system.

Chinese courts revised more than 1,300 criminal decisions in 2014, including a number of major wrongful judgments, said Zhou Qiang, chief justice of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Thursday as he delivered the court’s annual work report to the national legislature.

“With regard to wrongful convictions, we feel a deep sense of self-blame and demand that courts at all levels draw a profound lesson,” he said.

Atoning for miscarriages of justice-particularly in death-penalty cases-has been the centrepiece of a government campaign to reform law-enforcement institutions and instil public confidence in a legal system often seen as favouring the powerful over ordinary Chinese.

The Supreme People’s Court recently ordered retrials in a handful of high-profile cases, including that of an 18-year-old from Inner Mongolia who was executed in 1996 for the rape and murder of a woman in a public bathroom. The youth was posthumously exonerated in December, nearly 10 years after another man confessed to the crime.

Revisiting mistaken judgments “never really happened in Chinese criminal justice,” said Fu Hualing, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. “It’s a matter of credibility, and it’s a good thing”.

President Xi Jinping last fall ushered in the legal reform drive, saying that a better-functioning legal system is necessary if the Communist Party is to effectively govern an increasingly complex and contentious society. Mr. Zhou, a champion of judicial professionalism, has gained a reputation as a reformer, with space to push for changes to make the courts more independent and better protect the rights of lawyers.

Mr. Xi, however, has put limits on those reforms, requiring that the legal system continue to serve the interests of the party.

Political considerations are one reason China’s legal system produces so many wrongful convictions and mean they are unlikely to go away soon, according to Joshua Rosenzweig,a Hong Kong-based human-rights researcher.

“A lot of these cases were pushed through because of the pressure everyone was under to solve the latest grisly murder,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “The police, prosecutors and the courts are often coordinated by the party based on interests other than determining the truth.”

As Mr. Zhou was delivering his speech in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, a lawyer involved in another high-profile wrongful-conviction case cast doubt on the promises for change.

In a post on social media, Chen Guangwu, a lawyer for the family of Nie Shubin, a 21-year-old who was executed in 1995 for a rape and murder that another man later confessed to, said he hadn’t received access to the case file three months after the top court ordered a retrial.

“I think the local court is being interfered with,” Mr. Chen told The Wall Street Journal, saying he had asked multiple times to be given access to the documents. “This is how things work in China. They try to avoid sensitive incidents, sensitive times and sensitive places.”

Meng Bin, the judge with the Shandong High People’s Court who is overseeing the retrial, didn’t respond to calls for comment.

The Supreme People’s Court has repeatedly declined to comment on its handling of wrongful-conviction cases

The risk of political interference and rushed judgments is even greater in cases that touch on central government interests, legal scholars said. That is particularly a concern, Mr. Rosenzweig said, in cases involving terrorism or endangering national security.

Chinese courts issued judgments in 558 cases involving terrorist attacks or charges of inciting separatism in 2014, Mr. Zhou said in his report, a 14.8 per cent increase over the previous year.

Cracking down on terrorism and separatism has been a priority of Mr. Xi’s following a proliferation of violent attacks the government has attributed to religious extremists from Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority. Representatives from Xinjiang said at a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday that the country’s “strike-hard” campaign against terrorism has been carried out according to law.

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  • In NY, the wrongfully convicted petition for prosecutorial oversight
  • Colorado to consider eyewitness lineup reforms
  • In Japan, will wrongful convictions be catalyst for criminal justice reform?
  • With a judge’s order throwing out his murder conviction in-hand, Tyrone Hood truly became a free man as he was exonerated at a Monday morning hearing after spending more than 20 years in prison for a slaying he’s continued to insist he did not commit.
    “I can’t even describe how I feel right now,” he said.  Nearly a month ago, outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn commuted Hood’s sentence, releasing him from prison.  The decision by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to dismiss the convictions against Hood and his co-defendant Wayne Washington, Jr. follows more than two years of investigation by her office’s conviction integrity unit – which began looking into the case in 2012 after the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project championed Hood’s innocence.  Keep reading…..
  • New legislation in Texas aimed at expanding access for inmates to post-conviction DNA testing