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HOME > Public Statements and Opinion Papers > Statements > Statement on the Decision of Discharge by the Nagoya High Court Regarding the 7th Request for Retrial of the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case

Statement on the Decision of Discharge by the Nagoya High Court Regarding the 7th Request for Retrial of the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case

Statement on the Decision of Discharge by the Nagoya High Court Regarding the 7th Request for Retrial of the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case

 

On May 25, 2012, Division 2 of the Nagoya High Court (Presiding Judge Mr. Yasuo Shimoyama), rejected the 7th request for retrial by Mr. Masaru Okunishi in a case popularly known as the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case, discharging the earlier decision for the opening of a retrial.

 

This original incident, in which 5 women died and 12 others became ill after drinking wine poisoned with agricultural chemicals, took place in Nabari, Mie Prefecture in March 1961.  Mr. Okunishi was acquitted by the court of first instance but sentenced to death by a higher court, with the Supreme Court rejecting the appeal and later finalizing his death penalty. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) set up a sub-committee on the Nabari Case in the JFBA Human Rights Protection Committee in 1973 and has been providing its maximum support to him since that time.

 

Division 1 of the Nagoya High Court (Presiding Judge Mr. Junichi Koide) granted a retrial in April 2005. However, Division 2 of the same High Court (Presiding Judge Mr. Hiroshi Kadono) overturned this decision in December 2006 after the appeal filed by the prosecutor. The Supreme Court subsequently referred the case back to the Nagoya High Court in April 2010.

 

The reasons for the Supreme Court’s decision to refer the case back to the high court were as follows:

 

If the pesticide used for the murder was Nikkarin-T, then the medicinal substance identification test (i.e. the chromatography test) conducted by the Mie Prefectural Institute of Public Health at the time of the initial investigation should have detected a by-product of Nikkarin-T (in the form of a spot), together with TEPP, the main component of Nikkarin-T. However, such by-product was not detected from the remains of the wine at the crime scene.

 

Taking the above into consideration, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Nagoya High Court noting that, “The Nagoya High Court which came to its decision arguing that, ‘There is every possibility to assume that such by-product of Nikkarin-T could not have been detected during the test at the time of the initial investigation’ failed to examine the case from a scientific point of view and its process of reasoning was erroneous.”

 

The Nagoya High Court decided to turn down the 7th request for the reopening of the trial (hereinafter referred to as the “Decision”), even though the doubt which had arisen from the discovery of the new evidence submitted at the 7th request had not yet been resolved. Such latest decision of the High Court was made based solely on its own reasoning that “It is evident that the new evidence was not sufficient to prove that agricultural chemicals actually used in the crime could not have been Nikkarin-T.”  However, even the prosecutors in such case did not insist on such reasoning, and also the expert witness involved did not, in any way, mention such unfounded reasoning either.  The JFBA argues that the Decision ignored the necessity of the reexamination based on the scientific knowledge requested by the Supreme Court, and did not abide by the in dubio pro reo principle (the principle of innocent until proven guilty), and shifted the burden onto the defense attorneys to prove the innocence of the defendant.

 

If the evidentiary value of the new evidence is correctly judged, it can be stated that the toxic substance used in the crime has not been sufficiently proven to have actually been Nikkarin-T. Therefore, it is obvious that serious doubts still remain in the finalized conviction and equally clear that the retrial of Mr. Okunishi should be immediately opened.

 

The JFBA strongly insists that the Decision be reversed at the special interlocutory appeal to be made at the Supreme Court and that the reopening of the retrial be realized.  The JFBA here expresses its firm commitment to provide every support for Mr. Okunishi until he wins a full acquittal and is successfully released from death row.

 


 

May 25, 2012
Kenji Yamagishi
President
Japan Federation of Bar Associations