Statement Regarding the Decision on the Rejection of the Appeal for Retrial of the “Fukui Junior High School Girl Murder Case”
On March 6, 2013, at the proceedings for a retrial request for the case known as the “Fukui Junior High School Girl Murder Case” (the “Case”) involving Mr. Shoji Maekawa, the 1st Criminal Division of the Nagoya High Court (Presiding Judge Mr. Hiroshi Shida) decided to turn down the request for a retrial, accepting the objection raised by the prosecutors in the Case and rejecting the decision to open a retrial of the Case made at the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court on November 30, 2011.
Concerning the Case, Mr. Maekawa has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and there was no objectively verifiable evidence sufficient to prove Mr. Maekawa's involvement in the murder. Even though there was witness testimony, including that from a member of a crime syndicate, stating that they had seen Mr. Maekawa bloodstained after the crime, there were substantial changes in their statements during the police investigations, which clearly indicates that the testimony had been coerced by the investigators.
The Fukui District Court, in the first instance of this Case, acquitted Mr. Maekawa on September 26, 1990, rejecting the credibility of the witness testimony in relation to this Case.
However, the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, despite the fact that there was no evidence which carried any significant weight, reversed the judgment and handed down a seven-year sentence to Mr. Maekawa on February 9, 1995. Further, the Supreme Court turned down the appeal from Mr. Maekawa and finalized the guilty judgment on November 12, 1997, without rectifying the error at the appeal trial.
Mr. Maekawa subsequently filed for a retrial on July 15, 2004. The ruling decided on Nov. 30, 2011 at the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, approved the following points, namely, that: i) there were knife wounds on the victim’s body which could not have been made by the two knives which were identified as the murder weapons; ii) no blood stains were found in the car which was allegedly used at the time of the crime, despite the fact that such blood stains should have been found; iii) further, there was some indication that the scene of the crime had been tampered with to make it appear as though the perpetrator had committed suicide, and such facts suggested that the criminal profile which could be judged from the scene of the crime was totally out of character for Mr. Maekawa. Taking these factors into account, the 2011 ruling for the opening of a retrial, which determined that these facts were sufficient to raise doubts as to the credibility of the witness depositions used as grounds for the conviction finalized at the Supreme Court and that a reasonable doubt had been raised for identifying Mr. Maekawa as the culprit, was clearly justified.
On the other hand, today’s ruling completely ignored every question and issue raised in the 2011 ruling, stating that none of the new evidence submitted by the defense could in any way reduce the probative value of the old evidence, denying that there was clear evidence of innocence. However, during the proceedings for the retrial request, the prosecutors did not submit any evidence for examination, and thus, there was no substantial difference between the evidence behind today's ruling and that used as a premise for the 2011 decision. In spite of all this, today’s ruling overturned the 2011 ruling without giving due consideration thereto and rejected the decision on the opening of a retrial made at the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, without indicating any reasonable grounds or taking full account of the processes leading to the changes in witness statements regarding their involvement. This is most inappropriate with regard to the point that it demands that the new evidence must have inherent provability which surpass that of the old evidence, disregarding the decisions in the Shiratori and Zaitagawa incidents, which state that an iron rule of criminal trials, namely, “in dubio pro reo (when in doubt, decide for the accused)” should also apply to the retrial system.
Since today’s ruling is contrary to the fundamental principles of the retrial system, i.e., saving the innocent, the JFBA firmly believes that today’s ruling will surely be rejected in the special appeal proceedings.
The JFBA hereby expresses its determination that it will continue to provide any support necessary until Mr. Maekawa is acquitted at his retrial.
March 6, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations