Statement Regarding the Decision on the Opening of the Retrial of the “Hakamada Case”
Today, on March 27, 2014, concerning the second appeal for retrial filed by Mr. Iwao Hakamada, the Shizuoka District Court rendered a decision to launch a retrial and suspend the execution of death sentence and detention. The JFBA highly approves of the judgment so made.
This case concerns a case of robbery murder and arson in which a senior managing director of a miso (fermented soybean paste) processing factory and other three family members were murdered at their house in the then Shimizu City (currently Shimizu ward in Shizuoka City) before dawn of June 30, 1966. Mr. Hakamada, who was arrested in August of the same year, has insisted upon his innocence from the very beginning; however, he had been placed under an extremely intense interrogation continuously for 12 hours per day on average and for more than 16 hours per day at the longest, on the grounds that he had worn pajamas on which the blood of other persons as well as a mixture of fuel which was alleged to have had been used for the arson were attached. As a result of having undergone such harsh interrogations, Mr. Hakamada was coerced into confessing that he had committed the crime wearing pajamas, etc. However, one year and two months after the crime, during the first instance of the trial, five clothes with a large amount of blood stains thereon were discovered in a hemp sack filled with miso paste (fermented soybean paste) in a miso tank. Upon such discovery, in the prosecutors’ opening statement (at the beginning of the examination of evidence), the prosecutors changed the contents of Mr. Hakamada’s statement stating that the clothes he was wearing at the time of the crime were not the pajamas, but were instead the five clothes which he hid in the tank immediately after the crime. The court, finding that Mr. Hakamada had murdered the victims wearing the five clothes in question and then changed the clothes to the pajamas in due course and then set the fire, sentenced him to the capital punishment.
On November 19, 1980, the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Hakamada’s appeal and finalized the death sentence. Mr. Hakamada then filed the first appeal for a retrial in April 1981, and the JFBA has been assisting him since November 1981. However, the Supreme Court eventually dismissed the special appeal filed by Mr. Hakamada and the case was finalized in March 2008.
The defense counsels filed the second appeal for a retrial on April 25, 2008, and submitted new evidences in relation to the five clothes in question including i) a report regarding experiments soaking the clothes into miso, and ii) the results of DNA analysis, and proved that the five clothes in question were not Mr. Hakamada’s belonging, and that such clothes were not the clothes worn by the criminal person at the time of the crime.
Furthermore, as to the request made to the prosecutors by the defense counsels for the disclosure of the evidences that the prosecutors had been retaining and refusing to disclose until such point, the court prompted the prosecutors to voluntarily disclose them and later made a recommendation for such disclosure, and as a result, a number of pieces of evidence were disclosed, among which were included crucial evidence which demonstrates Mr. Hakamada’s innocence.
Today’s court decision to open a retrial was made by acknowledging the novelty and the clarity of innocence of “the evidence submitted by the defense counsels, especially, the evidence concerning the DNA analysis on the five clothes, etc., and the evidence relating to the colors of such five clothes”.
As to the DNA analysis, the court affirmed the credibility of the analysis conducted by Professor Katsuya Honda of University of Tsukuba who was recommended by the defense side, and also affirmed that there is a suspicion that the five clothes had been fabricated as evidence by the investigative organization.
In addition, the court conducted a re-evaluation regarding the affidavit including the confession in question as well as old evidence, and taking such evidence into account, the court made a judgment that there is a reasonable doubt upon the guilty rulings including the final judgment.
These methods of judgment strictly comply with the framework of the overall evaluations established by the decisions made in the Shiratori case, and so on.
Consequently, on the basis that there was a certain degree of probability that Mr. Hakamada would be acquitted at the retrial and, further, because there was a suspicion of illegality and unjust investigations conducted by the investigative organizations concerning the long period of Mr. Hakamada’s detainment, the court even stated “national institutions have placed an innocent individual person in custody and have kept such person detained for over 45 years. These facts are completely intolerable in light of the fundamental principles of criminal justice,” and made a milestone issuing a judgment suspending Mr. Hakamada’s detainment as well as the execution of the capital punishment.
Since Mr. Hakamada is currently 78 years old, being at an advanced age, and is ailing both mentally and physically after having been detained for the overly long period of 47 years, there is not a moment to spare in achieving a relief for Mr. Hakamada.
The JFBA strongly urges the public prosecutors to release Mr. Hakamada immediately and also to follow this decision without filing an immediate appeal against it.
The JFBA will continue to support Mr. Hakamada pursuing his being acquitted, and we will also make our utmost effort to realize a reform of the legal system in order to prevent miscarriages of justice, such as institutionalizing transparent interrogations through the entire interrogation process and disclosure of all evidence at criminal cases in case a retrial request is made.
March 27, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations