Tag Archives: Higashi-Sumiyoshi Case

Higashi Sumiyoshi Arson Case, Finally Acquitted Today.

I have posted several times about Higashi Sumiyoshi arson case. The Osaka District Court finally acquitted Ms. Keiko Aoki and Mr. Tatsuhiro Boku today.

From the Japan Times:

Retrial acquits Osaka woman, former partner in daughter’s 1995 fire death

Kyodo, Aug 10, 2016

The Osaka District Court acquitted a couple on Wednesday over the 1995 death of an 11-year-old girl, in a long-awaited retrial.

Keiko Aoki, 52, and Tatsuhiro Boku, 50, each served a little over 20 years for the murder of Aoki’s daughter in a house fire in Osaka Prefecture.

In the retrial, the court found no credibility in confessions that the pair allegedly gave during interrogation.

“I was given a complete acquittal. It was a great judgment,” Aoki said after the ruling.

She plans to sue the state for compensation for being deprived of liberty on false grounds. The pair were serving life terms when they secured the retrial.

It is the 10th case since 1975 in which a person sentenced to either the death penalty or life in prison has been acquitted in a retrial, according to the Supreme Court.

In Wednesday’s ruling, presiding Judge Goichi Nishino said none of the confessions made by Boku during investigations could be taken as evidence of guilt. The court similarly found no credibility in Aoki’s confession during investigations.

“There is a possibility that the two were forced into making false confessions after (investigators) instilled fear in them and applied excessive psychological pressure,” the judge said.

The ruling said the fire could have been accidental, adding that Boku’s confession contained nothing that could be considered first-hand insight.

The court also said it was possible that an interrogator coerced Boku into making an “unnatural” and involuntary confession.

But the court did not address the reason for the judiciary’s wrongful conviction, or apologize to Aoki.

Aoki and Boku were retried separately, with their verdicts given on the same day.

Prosecutors decided in March not to pursue fresh convictions against the couple as they could not prove the two were guilty of the crime in the retrial. The move effectively ensured the couple’s acquittal.

Aoki and Boku were convicted by the district court in 1999. Their conviction mainly relied on Boku’s confession that he spread gasoline inside a garage and set it on fire with a lighter.

Aoki and Boku have maintained their innocence throughout the retrials. They requested in 2009 that their cases be retried.

The couple were granted retrials by the court in 2012. The decision was upheld by the Osaka High Court last October and the two were subsequently released from prison.

But doubts were raised about Boku’s confession as evidence, following experiments conducted by both prosecutors and defense lawyers after their sentences were finalized by the Supreme Court in 2006. The experiments indicated the possibility that the garage blaze could have been accidental.

Another key piece of evidence that led to their retrials was an Osaka police diary detailing forceful police questioning.

The defense lawyers presented the diary during Aoki’s trial and also disclosed beforehand a portion of it to reporters.

In her retrial session in April, Aoki told the court she had falsely confessed to her daughter’s murder as she “felt like dying” after a prolonged interrogation by an investigator who continued to shout at her.

The couple were arrested in September 1995 on suspicion of lighting a fire that killed the girl at their Osaka home in July 1995. A life insurance policy had been taken out for the girl, then a sixth-grader in elementary school.


Retrial of the Higashi-Sumiyoshi Arson Case

I have posted several times about the Higashi-Sumiyoshi Arson Case. Keiko Aoki and Tatsuhiro Boku were released from prison after the Osaka High Court upheld the district court’s decision to start a retrial last October.  Here’s the latest news on the case.


From the Japan Times,

Woman maintains innocence during retrial for daughter’s death in 1995 fire

Kyodo, May 2, 2016

A woman who served more than 20 years of a life term declared Monday during her retrial that she is innocent of killing her 11-year-old daughter in a 1995 house fire.

“I did not do it,” Keiko Aoki, 52, said at the Osaka District Court. “Neither did I conspire (in the girl’s death). I am innocent.”

Aoki is set to be acquitted on Aug. 10 along with her de facto husband Tatsuhiro Boku, 50, as prosecutors have decided not to pursue fresh guilty verdicts for the pair.

But the prosecutors did not request a not-guilty verdict in their closing arguments during Boku’s retrial last week, and have denied that police conducted unlawful investigations.

Aoki told the court she had falsely confessed to the murder of her daughter, and that she “felt like dying” after a prolonged interrogation by an investigator who continued to shout at her. Continue reading

More on Higashi-Sumiyoshi Arson Case

Read here about Higashi-Sumiyoshi case.


A man and woman serving life in prison for starting a fire that killed the woman’s 11-year-old daughter were freed Monday when the Osaka High Court ordered their release following a decision to reopen the arson-murder case.

At around 2 p.m., Keiko Aoki, 51, walked out of a prison in Wakayama Prefecture while Tatsuhiro Boku, 49, was released from a prison in Oita Prefecture.

They had been behind bars for two decades. Prosecutors had sought to prevent their release.

“I was finally able to return to a world we take for granted,” Aoki told supporters immediately after her release. “I can hear my daughter saying somewhere in this blue sky, ‘Mom, I’m so happy for you.’ “

Speaking in front of Oita Prison, Boku was ebullient.

“Being out here for the first time in 20 years, I feel as if I am standing on foreign land,” he said. “It’s like a dream and the scenery before me looks brilliant.”

Last Friday, the Osaka High Court endorsed a March 2012 lower court decision to grant a retrial to Aoki, the mother of the 11-year-old victim, and Boku, her de facto husband. Both were serving life terms after being found guilty of setting their house on fire in a bid to kill the girl and collect on the life insurance. Continue reading

Breaking News: Osaka High Court Rejects Appeal by Prosecutor, Orders Release in Higashi-Sumiyoshi Arson Case

Osaka High Court rejected the appeal by the prosecutor today, and ordered release of two petitioners (serving life sentences) in a high profile arson case, Higashi Sumiyoshi Case. Read about the case here.

In this case, the Osaka District Court ruled to grant a retrial in 2012. The Presiding Judge stated in the decision that the petitioners’ confessions were unreliable and unreasonable from a “scientific viewpoint”, taking into consideration the result of a new experiment by experts.

However, to the dismay of the supporters, the prosecutors instantly appealed the ruling, and the retrial petition was being reviewed by the Osaka High Court.

Osaka High Court today ruled that according to additional experiments and statements by experts, the confessions by peritioners can no longer be evaluated as reliable. It also ordered release of petitioners from prisons.

The criminal procedure code in Japan writes that the prosecutors can still appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Denies Release in Higashi-Sumiyoshi Case

Previous posts on Higashi-Sumiyoshi Case here (part 1) and here (part 2).

This is an arson case where a couple (Tatsuhiro Boku and Keiko Aoki) was convicted in 1999 of setting their house on fire and killing an 11 year old girl (Aoki‘s daughter) in Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka Prefecture.

Boku and Aoki each filed a petition for retrial to the Osaka District Court in 2009, and were granted a retrial in March 2012.  The presiding Judge stated in the decision that the petitioners’ confessions were unreliable and unreasonable from a “scientific viewpoint”, taking into consideration the result of the new experiment.

The prosecutors instantly appealed the ruling, and the retrial petition is currently being reviewed by the Osaka High Court.

Osaka District Court had also ordered Boku and Aoki’s immediate release. The prosecution also appealed this ruling. Osaka High Court agreed with the prosecution and reversed the District Court’s decision. The petitioners then filed a special appeal to the Supreme Court, but it denied the appeal on September 18th. The Supreme Court merely stated that the conditions of special appeal did not meet in the case. It did not even go into the actual facts of the case…

Even in the rare instances where a retrial is granted, the appeal process may take years. After the lengthy appeals process, the actual retrial process may take even longer…

A statement by the supporters can be found here (in Japanese).

A Dubious Arson Case – Higashi-Sumiyoshi Case (Part 2 of 2)

A Picture of the Experiment in 2011.

Continued from Part 1

Aoki and Boku’s appeals to the Supreme Court were rejected in 2006, but their supporters continued the fight to get a retrial for them.

Boku filed a petition for retrial to the Osaka District Court on July 7, 2009. Aoki also filed her petition one month later.

The Criminal Procedure Code of Japan states that one of the instances where a retrial should be granted is “When clear evidence has been newly discovered that in regard to a person pronounced guilty Continue reading

A Dubious Arson Case – Higashi-Sumiyoshi Case (Part 1 of 2)

ImageThe excellent documentary film “Incendiary” (read more about the film here) reminded me of an arson case in Japan, the so-called Higashi-Sumiyoshi Case. Its retrial petition is currently being reviewed by Osaka High Court.

In the late afternoon of July 22, 1995, an 11 year old girl was killed in her own house in Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka, when a fire broke out. She was taking a shower and could not escape from the fire. The house was built mainly with wood and the fire was said to have broken out from the car parked on the first floor in the garage of the house. Her mother (Keiko Aoki), Aoki’s common-law husband (Tatsuhiro Boku) and Aoki’s son were able to escape from the fire.

The initial investigation by the fire department concluded that the cause of the fire was unknown. However, since (1) Aoki and Boku had life insurance coverage on the girl, and (2) the house was locked from the inside, the police suspected that it was an arson case. Their theory was that Aoki and Boku conspired together to get the insurance money by killing the girl. Thus, they tried to get the evidence by interrogating the couple.

The police arrested Aoki and Boku on September 10, 1995, after “voluntarily” taking them to the police station and obtaining their confession after a “voluntary” interrogation which took place from the morning. Aoki recanted her confession before the indictment Continue reading