Statement on the Decision of Rejection for the 8th Appeal for Retrial of the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case
On May 28, 2014, at the proceedings for the 8th retrial request for the case popularly known as the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case (the “Case”), the 1st Criminal Division of the Nagoya High Court (Presiding Judge Mr. Yoji Ishiyama) decided to turn down the request for a retrial filed by Mr. Masaru Okunishi (the Decision made at the proceedings for the 8th retrial request; hereinafter referred to as the “Decision”).
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 the High Court, with the Supreme Court rejecting his appeal and later finalizing Mr. Okunishi’s 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 to support the opening of a retrial and has been providing its maximum support to Mr. Okunishi for over 40 years since that time.
There were some twists and turns concerning the 7th request for retrial; the novelty and the clarity of the results of the analysis, etc., submitted by the defense counsel which proved that the poisonous substance used for the crime was different from the Nikkarin-T which Mr. Okunishi (the petitioner) possessed at the time of the crime, were acknowledged during the proceedings of the 7th request for retrial, and it was therefore decided that a retrial would be conducted. At a later date, however, having had the appeal proceedings and the first special appeal proceedings, the appeal for retrial was rejected at the appeal proceedings referred back from the Supreme Court, as the court stated that it was evident that “the new evidence was not sufficient to prove that the agricultural chemicals actually used in the crime could not have been Nikkarin-T.” The decision made therein was then confirmed at the final proceedings (the proceedings for the second special appeal).
At the 8th request for retrial filed on November 5, 2013, taking into consideration the process at the final proceeding for the 7th request for retrial in which the request had been turned down with no examination being made of the opinion papers, etc. as to poisonous substances submitted by the defense counsel, the defense counsel once again submitted the opinion papers, etc., as evidence, and preannounced that they would prove by way of experimental results that the grounds used for turning down the 7th retrial request at the final proceedings were incorrect.
The Decision, however, was rendered without even waiting for the defense counsel’s experimental results that were soon to be submitted. The courts stated in its Decision that it had decided to render its decision early, taking into account the fact of Mr. Okunishi’s advanced age and deteriorating state of health. However, the Decision to turn down the appeal for retrial must be subject to serious criticism given that it was rendered despite the fact that sufficient examination was not performed and the defense counsel were not provided with an opportunity to prove their case.
Furthermore, in several recent and important retrial cases, there have been a number of examples in which the disclosure of evidence held by the prosecutors was deemed to be an important trigger for the decision to open a retrial. In the present case, however, despite the fact that the defense counsel have repeatedly been making requests for the disclosure of evidence, the court and the prosecutors chose to stubbornly maintain their stance, which they have held from the beginning to the end of the case, of failing to provide any response whatsoever to the requests. This goes against the principles of justice and could reduce the public’s confidence in the judicial system to the effect that it seems as if the death sentence has been handed down and maintained with evidence remaining undisclosed. This situation is entirely unacceptable.
Mr. Okunishi, now already being 88 years of age, is ailing and is currently being held at a medical prison, with the hope of his innocence being proven keeping him going. The JFBA expresses its full commitment to provide every support for Mr. Okunishi until he wins a full acquittal and is successfully released from death row.
May 28, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations