Tag Archives: Japan

Death of inmate’s adoptive son ends ‘Teigin’ retrial bid

My previous post on Teigin Case here.

From the Japan Times:

Death of inmate’s adoptive son ends ‘Teigin’ retrial bid

by Keiji Hirano, Oct 16, 2013

The curtain has effectively come down on the most mysterious mass-murder case in postwar Japan, with numerous questions left unanswered.

Takehiko Hirasawa, 54, who sought a posthumous retrial for his adoptive father, Sadamichi Hirasawa, was recently found dead in a home in Suginami Ward, Tokyo.

Sadamichi Hirasawa was sentenced to hang for poisoning 12 people to death at a branch of Teikoku Ginko (Imperial Bank) in Tokyo on Jan. 26, 1948, in what became known as the “Teigin Incident.” He passed away in a prison hospital on May 10, 1987, at the age of 95, after maintaining his innocence for nearly 40 years. Continue reading

Supreme Court Rejects to Reopen Nabari Case…

Previous posts on Nabari Case here, here and here. This is a murder case from 1961. The defendant, Masaru Okunishi is critically ill, awaiting his execution on a prison hospital bed.

From Mainichi.jp:

Top court rejects petition to reopen 1961 murder case

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Supreme Court said Thursday it has turned down a petition by a death row inmate for a retrial over a 1961 murder case in which five women died after drinking poisoned wine in Nabari, central Japan.

In the seventh plea for a retrial, the defense team for Masaru Okunishi, 87, presented an expert opinion that the poison used in the crime was not tetraethyl pyrophosphate as determined in the final ruling.

However, the top court’s No. 1 petty bench unanimously rejected the petition, saying the pesticide could have been used as the poison as Okinishi had initially confessed.

In response, the defense team said it plans to file another plea for a retrial with the Nagoya High Court in the near future.

The case involves the poisoning of 17 people on March 28, 1961, at a local community meeting in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. Five, including Okunishi’s wife, died and 12 fell sick.

The Tsu District Court acquitted Okunishi in 1964 for lack of evidence, but the Nagoya High Court handed him a death sentence in 1969, finalized by the Supreme Court in 1972.

Accepting his petition for a retrial, the high court decided in 2005 to reopen the case and suspend the execution, but another panel of the high court nullified the decision the next year, accepting the appeal of prosecutors.

His petition was again rejected by the high court last year after having the case sent back by the top court, leading Okunishi to file a special appeal to the Supreme Court.

Okunishi has experienced deteriorating health and is in a serious condition at a medical prison in Hachioji in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where he has been held since May.

October 17, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

73 Year-Old Inmate Executed on Sep. 12, 2013 in Japan

From the Japan Times:
Death-row inmate, 73, sixth executed under Abe Cabinet
by Tomohiro Osaki Staff Writer
Sep 12, 2013

Tokuhisa Kumagai, 73, was put to death after Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki signed the order for the execution, the sixth under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office last December.

About a month after the slaying, Kumagai attempted another robbery during which he shot an employee at Shibuya Station in Tokyo. The station worker narrowly escaped death, but was partially paralyzed.

For this incident, Kumagai was convicted of attempted murder and attempted robbery.

He was also convicted of attempted arson and robbery for earlier incidents.

During a hastily arranged news conference after the hanging, Tanigaki denounced Kumagai’s crimes as “extremely flagrant,” saying the murder and other transgressions were motivated by selfishness and caused immeasurable pain to the families of the victims.

“As a matter of fact, his acts were scrutinized by the courts numerous times, and I myself repeatedly gave them serious considerations before signing the final order,” Tanigaki said. Continue reading

Parolee Charges Authorities for Forcing False Confessions — Sayama Case

From the Japan Times:

Parolee in 1963 Saitama girl’s slaying hits authorities for lying, forcing confessions

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer, Jun 14, 2013

Investigators will lie, grill for hours on end and withhold exonerating evidence — in effect do anything — to extract a confession from a suspect they have pegged for a crime, a 1994 parolee seeking a retrial to clear his name in the 1963 kidnap-murder of a Saitama Prefecture girl said Thursday in Tokyo.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Kazuo Ishikawa, who appeared with his lawyer, Taketoshi Nakayama, pointed to discrepancies in the kanji used in an apparent ransom demand for ¥200,000 and an earlier document he wrote and also alleged that the state looked to him as a usual suspect because of his roots in Japan’s former outcast class known as the “burakumin.” He continues to claim he is innocent.

Ishikawa was arrested in 1963 for the kidnap-slaying of Yoshie Nakata in the town of Sayama. An autopsy carried out on her corpse at the time concluded she had been raped and strangled.

In a notorious case that would become known as the “Sayama Incident,” Ishikawa was initially sentenced to hang. Continue reading

Fabrication of Police Reports Revealed in Japan

Two (!) police scandals were revealed in Japan this week.

One was fabrication of reports and perjury during trial by police officers from the Osaka Prefectural Police, and the other was falsification and concealment of reports by the Kagoshima Prefectural Police.

In the Osaka case, the officers falsified reports and perjured during trial in a  drug case.  The defendant was arrested for obstructing the police officer at a police station. The falsification and perjury involved detention of the defendant in a protection room by a senior officer who did not have the authority to do so. A different officer filed a report saying that the senior officer ordered the confinement, but his superior told to file a false report saying that there was approval by a higher ranking officer. Two reports were then filed. Later at trial, the officers testified that the chain of command was kept. Read about the case here (The Japan Times).

The Kagoshima case involved a suspect who is a gang member.  The victim of the incident told the police officers that he did not know the suspect. A report was filed. Later, the victim changed his statement and told the officers that he knew the suspect. However, the officers fabricated the first report and wrote that the victim knew the suspect, so that the State’s case would not be damaged by inconsistent statements. The charges against the suspect were later dropped. Read about the case here ( in Japanese).

Fabrication of police reports was also revealed recently in Tokyo and Hyogo Prefectures. Both cases were sent to the prosecutor’s office/ indicted.

Japan to Pay 68 Million for 15 Years of Wrongful Incarceration

Previous posts on Govinda Mainali’s case here.
From the Japan Times:

¥68 million redress eyed for Mainali
May 25, 2013

The Tokyo District Court has endorsed paying about ¥68 million in compensation to a Nepali man who was wrongly detained and imprisoned in Japan for 15 years, according to sources.

Govinda Prasad Mainali, 46, was charged with murdering a Japanese woman in 1997 and was handed a life term that was finalized in 2003 before being cleared in a retrial last November.

Mainali was kept in prison until the decision on his retrial was reached last June after the prosecutors were shown to have withheld crucial DNA evidence that could have cleared him. He was acquitted in his initial trial.

Two Executions in Japan…

Two inmates were hanged in Japan yesterday. It seems like the number of executions are increasing in Japan in recent years…

Read more here about the death penalty in Japan and how executions are carried out.

From the Japan Times:

Two inmates hanged for yakuza slayings

by Tomohiro Osaki, Staff Writer

Apr 26, 2013

The inmates were Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, and Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, the Justice Ministry said.

Members of a yakuza syndicate, the pair were convicted of conspiring with an accomplice to gun down two rival gangsters at a family restaurant in Chiba Prefecture in 2005.

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International immediately condemned the hangings, saying the fast pace of executions by the LDP-led government tells the world that Japan is determined to ignore calls by the international community to abolish the death penalty. Continue reading

Breaking News: Two Retrial Pleas Turned Down in Japan Today…

Unbelievable…… Kagoshima District Court and Nagoya High Court  both turned down the retrial plea of two cases (Ohsaki Case and Fukui Case) today. Read about the Ohsaki Case here, and Fukui Case here.

Here is an article about the Ohsaki case by mainichi.jp:

Court rejects appeal for retrial over 1979 murder case

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — The Kagoshima District Court rejected on Wednesday an appeal for a retrial filed by a woman who was convicted and served a 10-year prison term for killing her brother-in-law in 1979 in Kagoshima Prefecture for insurance money.

The decision came after the district court had initially decided to reopen the case involving Ayako Haraguchi, now 85, in 2002, which was overruled by the Fukuoka High Court in 2004. The high court’s decision was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court.

The murder occurred in October 1979, when Kunio Nakamura, 42, was found dead in a cattle stable beside his home in the town of Osaki, Kagoshima. Continue reading

Another Court Decision to be Handed Down Today — Fukui Case


From Yomiuri Shimbun (see the link). Shoji Maekawa, the defendant in Fukui Case (center). Shoji Sakurai (left), and Takao Sugiyama(right), two defendants in so-called Fukawa Case, were both exonerated in 2011.

Two decisions concerning wrongful convictions will be handed down today in Japan. One is  Ohsaki case which I posted about yesterday, and the other is Fukui case.

Fukui case involves a 1986 murder of a 15-year-old girl. The defendant (Shoji Maekawa) in the case was acquitted by the Fukui District Court in 1990, but the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court vacated the decision and gave Maekawa 8 years in prison in 1995 (the Japanese criminal justice system allows the prosecutors to appeal a verdict of acquittal).

Maekawa petitioned to open a retrial in 2004, and the Kanazawa Branch granted his petition in November 2011. The prosecutors filed an objection to the High Court, and the decision by the High Court will be handed down today (on March 6th, 2013).

Read about the Fukui Case here (English, by Asahi Shimbun) and here (Japanese).

Below is an article by Yomiuri Shimbun in 2011: Continue reading

Court to Decide Whether to Retry a Case from 1979 on March 6, 2013– Ohsaki Case

Ms. Ayako Haraguchi. From 47news.

Ms. Ayako Haraguchi. From 47news.

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. Continue reading

Life Sentence Without Parole as an Alternative to Death Penalty?

From the Japan Times:

Opinion divided on life term without parole

by Daisuke Sato (Last In A Series), Feb 21, 2013

A 44-year-old man serving a life sentence in a prison in the Chugoku region believes that continuing to live a respectable life is the only atonement he can make for the families of the two people he killed.

The inmate, who has now served 15 years, has been behaving well and prison guards often describe him as an “exemplary” prisoner.

He was initially sentenced to death by a district court. However, a high court determined that there was a possibility he could be rehabilitated and reduced the punishment to a life term. This sentence was later finalized.

“The death penalty may have been upheld” if his trials had been conducted today because sentencing has gotten tougher, the inmate said in an interview in the prison’s visiting room.

Technically, inmates serving life terms can be released on parole if they serve 10 years, demonstrate signs of reform and meet other requirements. The reality, though, is that the period such inmates are actually serving has been getting longer, recently reaching an average of about 30 years, according to data released by the Justice Ministry.

Even so, the Chugoku inmate is happy just for the opportunity to atone. Continue reading

Three Executions in Japan Today (Feb. 21, 2013)

Three executions were carried out today in Japan. These were the first executions since Shinzo Abe (Liberal Democratic Party) became the Prime Minister in December 2012.

The three men executed today were Masahiro Kanagawa (at the Tokyo Detention Center), Keiki Kano (Nagoya Detention Center), and Kaoru Kobayashi (Osaka Detention Center). Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who has the ultimate power to order execution of death row inmates, did not comment when and why these three were chosen.

One of the three men, Kobayashi, was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old girl in 2004. After he was sentenced to death by the Nara District Court, he withdrew his appeal, saying that he did not want to live anymore. However, he filed a motion for a retrial in 2008 (the motion was rejected by the Nara District Court).  Shinichi Ishizuka, who was Kobayashi’s attorney, commented: “Kobayashi was frustrated that he could not appropriately raise the fact that he did not act with the intent to kill the victim at the trial. We were preparing to file for a retrial again. We regret the fact that he was executed before he could have his day in court” (this paragraph is from the Mainichi (in Japanese)).

Justice Minister Tanigaki told the press that if there are problems within the current system of capital punishment, they should be fixed. However, he also commented that he does not think an overall reform is needed. Tanigaki did not witness the executions today, since it is very uncommon for a Justice Minister to do so.

As of December 2012, there were 133 inmates on death row, a record-high number.

Read more about today’s news in English here (the Mainichi), and here (the Japan Times).

Numerous organizations immediately issued statements criticizing today’s executions: Japan Federation of Bar Associations,  Amnesty International, and Center for Prisoners’ Rights (all in Japanese).

Read more about the death penalty on this blog (ex. here, here, here and here).

Death by Hanging — How Executions are Carried Out in Japan

Here are two articles published by the Japan Times today on death penalty in Japan.

One describes how executions are actually carried out in Japan, and the other tells a story of the mother of a man who was hanged.

Death's door: Several buttons — one of which opens the gallows' trapdoor (right), executing condemned prisoners — are seen at the Tokyo Detention House in August 2010.

  • Death’s door: Several buttons — one of which opens the gallows’ trapdoor (right), executing condemned prisoners — are seen at the Tokyo Detention House in August 2010. | KYODO

Sides weigh in on hangings but mute on death penaltY, Discussions under DPJ rule on executions remain secret

by Daisuke Sato  and Takuro Iwahashi


First in a series on hangings. In the execution chamber, a red lamp near the ceiling lights up, the chief detention officer gives the signal and five guards each press a button, one of which triggers the trapdoor of the gallows.No one will ever know which button actually opened the door. Continue reading

Murder of One Gets Death Sentence

Read about the current state of capital punishment in Japan here.

A 30-year-old man from Osaka was sentenced to death last week. What was unusal about this sentence is that the defendant had no prior criminal record, and that it was a case involving the death of a single victim.

In the 1983 Nagayama decision, the Supreme Court stated that the courts must be extremely cautious to impose the death penalty. It stated that they could impose death penalty only where the below stated nine factors were considered and where the death penalty is deemed compelling.

The nine factors are: seriousness of the offence, motive, how the crime was committed; especially the manner of the murder, seriousness of the outcome of the crime; especially the number of victims, sentiments of victim’s family members, impact on society, defendant’s age, prior record/ criminal history, and degree of remorse.

When the courts take these factors into consideration, it  is standard practice that they do not sentence one to the death penalty when the case involves a single victim and the defendant has no prior criminal record. Thus, the case last week came to a shock to many.

From the Japan Times:

Killer of one had no rap sheet, sentenced to hang

Kyodo, Feb. 16, 2013

In what appears to be a first in the judicial system, an Osaka man has been sentenced to hang for killing a woman even though there was only one victim and the perpetrator had no previous criminal record.

Judge Kosuke Morioka of the Okayama District Court, presiding over a panel of professional and lay judges trying Koichi Sumida, 30, said Thursday the victim was also sexually assaulted, making the case “grave.”

Sumida’s lawyer immediately appealed the sentence. Continue reading

Train Groping and Wrongful Convictions in Japan

Since commuter trains in urban areas are unbelievably crowded in Japan, there have been problems of groping (“chikan“) on these trains, especially during the morning rush hours.

Not surprisingly, there have been many cases where people were wrongfully arrested or even convicted as the groper. Once arrested, it is extremely difficult to prove one’s innocence since there typically is no evidence other than the victim’s testimony. Read more about the problem of groping and wrongful convictions here (an article from the Japan Times Online).

Below is a recent article from the Mainichi Newspapers about a case currently being fought to win a retrial in a train groping case.

From the Mainichi Online:

Court questions man seeking retrial in train groping case

The Tokyo District Court on Jan. 31 made the rare move of summoning an elderly man for questioning during his request for a retrial in a molestation case over which he has already served prison time.

Usually retrial requests are screened on paper, and it is unusual to directly question a former defendant. Lawyers for the 70-year-old man, whose name is being withheld, said they and prosecutors are due to submit their final opinions on the case to the district court at the end of February. Continue reading

Why Do Innocent People Confess?

Why do innocent people confess to the crimes they did not commit? Here’s an article on the cause of false confessions in Japan by Mariko Oi (BBC).  Watch the story online here.

Related articles about the Japanese Criminal Justice System: False Confessions as Major Cause of Wrongful Convictions in JapanAudio and Visual Recording of Interrogations, Fukawa Case, and Compensation for the Wrongfully Convicted.

2 January 2013 Last updated at 00:29 GMT

Japan crime: Why do innocent people confess?

By Mariko Oi BBC World Service, Tokyo

Japan has a conviction rate of more than 99%. But in recent months there has been a public outcry over a number of wrongful arrests where innocent people confessed to crimes.

It started with a threat posted on the city of Yokohama’s website in late June: “I’ll attack a primary school and kill all the children before the summer.”

In the months that followed, there were a number of similar threats posted on the internet – some threatening famous people, including the Emperor’s grandchildren.

After a police investigation, four people were arrested. Two, including a 19-year-old student, confessed whilst in custody.

But on 9 October, the real perpetrator sent an email to a lawyer – Yoji Ochiai – and local media, explaining how he or she made those threats by taking control of innocent internet users’ computers with a virus.

His or her purpose, as stated in the email to Ochiai, was “to expose the police and prosecutors’ abomination”.

And in a way, it did. It raised the question – why did the innocent people confess to a crime that they didn’t commit? What kind of pressure were they put under? Continue reading

Double Jeopardy and the Japanese Law

As I posted here, Mainali Case revealed many problems of the Japanese criminal justice system. One of them is the law that permits prosecutors to appeal the acquittal verdict.

Japanese law does ban double jeopardy. Article 39 of the Constitution states: No person shall be held criminally liable for an act which was lawful at the time it was committed, or of which he had been acquitted, nor shall he be placed in double jeopardy.

However, the Supreme Court decided on September 27, 1950 that trials in district court, hight court and the Supreme Court for the same offence constitute a single jeopardy. Thus, there exists no double jeorpardy where the prosecutor appeal the acquittal at the district court. There has been many cases where this case law was challenged, but the Court has constantly upheld the decision. It was not even considered as an issue in the recent reform efforts.

Isn’t it about time we change this rule? Here is an excellent article by The Japan Times on this topic.

From The Japan Times Online :

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012

Double jeopardy practice scrutinized

Bids to reverse acquittals risk invalidating the lay judges’ role

By SETSUKO KAMIYA Staff writer

Two recent high-profile exonerations have reignited calls by defense lawyers to require the full disclosure of evidence, and to let verdicts handed down by lay judges stand.

The lawyers for Nepalese Govinda Prasad Mainali, who on Nov. 7 was finally exonerated in absentia of a 1997 robbery-murder, went a step further and slammed the Japanese practice of allowing prosecutors to appeal acquittals — something other countries ban as double jeopardy. Continue reading

Compensation for the Wrongfully Convicted

Studying other legal systems enables us to look back and clearly assess what is wrong with our own system. When I first started working for the Innocence Project Northwest last year, I was shocked to learn that the State of Washington has no law that ensures  compensation to the wrongfully convicted (read the details here). In fact, many of the states in the US still have no compensation law (read the details here).

What about other countries? Here is the situation in Japan.

The Constitution of Japan (which was drafted after the WWII under the US occupation) states in Article 40: ” Any person, in case he is acquitted after he has been arrested or detained, may sue the State for redress as provided by law“.  It ensures one the right to sue the State to get compensation in case he was wrongfully arrested or detained. In response to this Article, the Criminal Compensation Act (1950) specifies the details of the compensation.

Article 4 of the Act provides that the amount of compensation given will be decided by the court. The court shall set the rate of compensation by considering how the person was detained, the length of detention, the person’s loss of property, physical and mental pain he/ she had to suffer, and negligence by the police and prosecutors.  The minimum daily rate is 1,000 yen (12.5 USD) per day he/ she was detained, and the maximum is 12,500 yen (about 155 USD).  See the table below for the amount given to exonerees in past cases.

The wrongfully arrested/ detained can also file a lawsuit against the State under  the State Redress Act (Act No. 125 of 1947).  However, to win the lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that “a public officer who exercises the public authority of the State or of a
public entity has, in the course of his/her duties, unlawfully inflicted damage
on another person intentionally or negligently” (Art. 1 of the Redress Act. Emphasis added. Translation by Japanese Law Translation).

It is extremly hard to prove the intention or negligence of the public officer since the State has all the evidence about the case, and the lawsuit takes a lot of time and resources. Only about 6% of the lawsuits under the Redress Act end in favor of the plaintiff. This system needs much reform.

So how much compensation will Govinda Mainali (recent exoneree) get for his 15 years of detention? Here’s an article by Daily Yomiuri Online.

From Daily Yomiuri Online.

Excerpt: Chihiro Iwasaki and Kotaro Kodama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

Mainali Finally Declared Innocent by Tokyo High Court!

Govinda Prasad Mainali, the Nepalese man convicted of killing a woman in 1997, was finally acquitted today by the Tokyo High Court. It is reported that the prosecutors will not appeal the decision. Mainali has already gone back to his home country.

Read my previous post on this case here.

From The Mainichi:

High court acquits Nepalese man of murder in retrial

A supporter for Govinda Prasad Mainali shows off a banner saying, "Acquitted in a retrial," in front of the Tokyo High Court in Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 7. (Mainichi)

The Tokyo High Court acquitted a Nepalese man, who had been released in June and returned home after serving a prison term for a murder he never committed, in a retrial on Nov. 7.

The court upheld the Tokyo District Court’s initial ruling in April 2000 that found Govinda Prasad Mainali, 46, not guilty. Continue reading

Third Person’s DNA Found — Iizuka Case

My previous post on Iizuka Case here. This is a case from 1992 where two girls were killed in Iizuka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Michitoshi Kuma was convicted as the perpetrator of the murders, and he was executed in 2008. He maintained his innocence until his death.

Efforts to exonerate Kuma posthumously has been going on after his death. His widow filed a motion for a retrial to the Fukuoka District Court in 1993, and his lawyers has been trying to get new DNA testing results from the evidence in this case.

Last week, his lawyers revealed a new DNA testing result. From The Mainichi News:


Different type of DNA uncovered after execution in Iizuka case: lawyers

Tsutomu Iwata, one of defense lawyers seeking a retrial of former death row inmate Michitoshi Kuma, who was executed in 2008, uses a panel to explain the discovery of a DNA type different from Kuma's in Fukuoka on Oct. 25. (Mainichi)
Tsutomu Iwata, one of defense lawyers seeking a retrial of former death row inmate Michitoshi Kuma, who was executed in 2008, uses a panel to explain the discovery of a DNA type different from Kuma’s in Fukuoka on Oct. 25. (Mainichi) Continue reading