Statement on Support for the Request for a Posthumous Retrial of the “Hino-Cho Case”
On March 30, 2012, the family of the late Mr. Hiromu Sakihara, a petitioner for a retrial, made a request to the Otsu District Court for a posthumous retrial of the so-called “Hino-cho” case. The JFBA supports this appeal and requests the court to swiftly determine the opening of the retrial.
The outline of the case is as follows:
A woman who ran her own liquor shop went missing at the end of December 1984, and was later found dead in Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga Prefecture in the middle of January 1985. Mr. Hiromu Sakihara, who had been a regular customer of the shop, was arrested for the charges of robbery and murder in March 1988. The Otsu District Court handed down a sentence of life imprisonment in 1995, and the Supreme Court rejected his appeal in September 2000. Mr. Sakihara, who had been consistently proclaiming his innocence, launched an appeal for a retrial in November 2001.
The final and binding decision made in 1995 was given under the following circumstances: i) there was no direct physical evidence; ii) there was no circumstantial evidence proving the late Mr. Sakihara to be the real perpetrator; and iii) the decision was solely based on and supported by the confessions made by Mr. Sakihara in which there were strong doubts as to the voluntariness and credibility thereof. During the retrial proceedings, a number of new evidence items were submitted, in which it became clear that there were inconsistencies between the objective evidence and the crucial parts of the confessions, namely, regarding: i) the motivation for committing the robbery murder; ii) the method used for the murder; and iii) the money and goods stolen, thus, the credibility of the core component of the confessions became highly questionable. Therefore, with such new evidence and findings, it was a natural consequence that the court should have ordered a retrial.
However, the Otsu District Court, where the retrial request was processed, while finding and approving the fact that there were indeed inconsistencies between the objective evidence and crucial parts of the confessions, rendered a wrongful judgment that Mr. Sakihara had suffered from a slip or loss of memory, and thereby rejected the appeal for a retrial on March 27, 2006. An immediate appeal against such ruling was lodged to the Osaka High Court, and the deliberation continued from that time forth. However, before any relief was able to be realized, Mr. Sakihara died of illness on March 18, 2011, while still serving time, and thus, the termination of the litigation process was determined on March 30, 2011.
Mr. Sakihara, who served life in prison as a result of a miscarriage of justice, should have been saved from such a violation of his human rights caused by the court while he was still alive. However, even though the relief for Mr. Sakihara was not able to be achieved while he was still alive, his family decided to launch an appeal for retrial of the deceased.
The JFBA has supported this case since immediately after the appeal for retrial was made by Mr. Sakihara in 2001. It is worthwhile noting the fact that while such request for retrial was being processed, the following acts were performed in response to recommendations made by the presiding judge: i) all the 35 reports sent from the police to the prosecutors, a list of physical evidence and a list of documents were disclosed; ii) a summary of such evidence was presented; and iii) a list of all the evidence was made. However, we find it highly regrettable that there is still a large amount of evidence held by the police, and even though a request was made by the defense attorneys for the disclosure of specific items based on the list of evidence, the prosecutors failed to respond to such request, and the court also neglected to issue an order for their disclosure.
In addition to the above, even though the late Mr. Sakihara argued that he had been subjected to violence or intimidation from police officers while he was forced to make a confession, since the transparent interrogation system had not (and still has not) yet been institutionalized, the fact that he had been the victim of violence or intimidation from the police officers in question was denied at the retrial proceedings. Therefore, the JFBA strongly requests the court and prosecutor’s office to actively disclose all relevant evidence at the posthumous retrial so that the truth can finally be revealed.
The JFBA hereby expresses its strong commitment to provide continued support for the request for a posthumous retrial by the deceased’s family and to make every endeavor to realize the opening of the retrial for this “Hino-cho” Case.
March 30, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations