Statement Regarding Criminal Justice Reform Following the Decision to Open a Retrial in the “Hakamada Case”
A decision to launch a retrial was rendered in March 2014 at the proceedings for the 2nd retrial request for the case popularly known as the Hakamada Case and Mr. Iwao Hakamada was finally released from prison after 47 years and 7 months. This is the fruition of the long-time efforts made by Mr. Hakamada and those who have supported him, as well as the JFBA’s support for the launch of a retrial as part of its human rights protection activities.
It is not overstating matters to say that many of the issues facing the criminal justice system are seen as a microcosm in this case. Since the inception of such case and until the present day, a number of problems have been pointed out, namely, interrogations being conducted for several hours behind closed doors which used the daiyo kangoku (substitute prison) system over consecutive days, the voluntariness of the confession, the credibility of material evidence as well as DNA analysis, and so on; Problems surrounding the death penalty system have also come to light as a result of this case, such as the fact that Mr. Hakamada had been living in constant fear of being executed for a very long time, as well as the fact that if the execution had been carried out, the wrongful implementation of the death penalty would have occurred.
The court decision to commence the retrial acknowledged that Mr. Hakamada was coerced into confessing that he had committed the crime after such lengthy interrogations, a fact which had already been recognized at the first instance of the trial which resulted in his death sentence, stating the results of the DNA analysis of the five clothing items and the report regarding experiments soaking the clothes in question into miso, both of which were submitted as new evidence by the defense counsel. Further, the court even stated that the evidence finally disclosed at the proceedings for the second retrial request also revealed the fact that a number of evidentiary items had been fabricated by the investigative organizations. It was clearly acknowledged by the court that there had been a spate of problems, which had already been pointed out for some time, yet, the existence of which had been continuously denied by the investigative organizations and courts. Moreover, the current state of Mr. Hakamada, who was finally released after the suspension of his detainment, is thrusting the problems entailed in the death penalty system into the spotlight.
The JFBA has been appealing for the reform of the criminal justice system, such as the abolishment of the substitute prison system, the audio/video recording of the entire process of interrogations in all cases by the police, etc. as well as the necessity of establishing an independent third party institution for identifying the causes of false charges, and so on. In addition, the JFBA has also been calling for the suspension of executions and the launch of a nationwide debate on the abolition of the death penalty. As an interested party involved in the criminal justice system, we should take special notice of these issues that have been revealed by the Hakamada Case, and we should take the lessons we have learned to heart so that the sacrifice made by Mr. Hakamada is never repeated. In this regard, it is vital that we address the further reform of the criminal justice system.
Concerning the proceedings for appeals for retrial, in particular, there have been some cases in which there are noticeable differences compared to the Hakamada Case. For instance, as for the proceedings at the immediate appeal for the second retrial request of the Osaki Case, which was conducted after the decision to launch the retrial for the Hakamada Case had been made, the following criteria indicated in the Shiratori and Saitagawa Cases, etc. for rendering a judgment regarding the opening of a retrial was not effectively utilized: “A retrial should be launched when serious doubt is cast on the finalized sentence after an overall evaluation is made on the new and old evidence.” At the proceedings for the 8th retrial request for the case popularly known as the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case, a judgment was rendered even though the court failed to respond to a request for the disclosure of evidence. Further, an immediate appeal was made by the public prosecutors against the decision to open a retrial for the Hakamada Case, and even though a decision to commence a retrial was rendered in cases such as the first retrial appeal for the Osaki Case, the Fukui Junior High School Girl Murder Case, and the seventh retrial request for the Nabari Poisoned Wine Case, such decisions to start a retrial were rejected without rational reasons being indicated at the proceedings for an immediate appeal or for an objection in lieu of an immediate appeal made by the public prosecutors. The JFBA has been calling for the disclosure of all evidence in criminal cases in cases where a retrial request is made, and has also been calling for measures which prevent the public prosecutors from filing an immediate appeal against a ruling for the launch of a retrial. There is an urgent need to reform the retrial procedures, including the ways in which the evidence disclosed is to be reviewed for retrials in criminal cases.
In opening the 57th JFBA Convention for Human Rights Protection, taking the decision to launch a retrial of the Hakamada Case as an opportunity, the JFBA resolves to continue putting forward its utmost efforts to realize a reform of the criminal justice system, including the retrial proceedings, and reiterates our call for the suspension of executions and the launch of a nationwide debate on the abolition of the death penalty.
October 1, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations