Statement Regarding the Decision on the Rejection of the Appeal for Retrial of the Fukui Junior High School Girl Murder Case
On December 10, 2014, at the special appeal proceedings for a retrial request for the case popularly known as the “Fukui Junior High School Girl Murder Case” (the “Case”) involving Mr. Shoji Maekawa, the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court (Presiding Judge Mr. Katsumi Chiba) decided to turn down the appeal (the “Decision”).
Concerning the Case, Mr. Maekawa has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and there is no objectively verifiable evidence sufficient to prove Mr. Maekawa's involvement in the murder. Even though there was witness testimony from a member of a crime syndicate and related persons, stating that they had seen Mr. Maekawa bloodstained after the crime, there were substantial changes in their statements during the police investigations, which is a clear indication of the possibility of their testimony having been unlawfully led 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, and further, the Supreme Court turned down the appeal from Mr. Maekawa and finalized the guilty judgment on November 12, 1997.
Mr. Maekawa subsequently filed for a retrial, with the assistance of the JFBA, at the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court in July 2004.
The ruling decided on November 30, 2011 at the proceedings for a retrial 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; and iii) there were some indications that the crime scene 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 such crime scene was totally out of character for Mr. Maekawa. Taking these factors into account, the 2011 ruling 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, and decided to open the retrial.
The Nagoya High Court (in March 2013) where the proceedings for the retrial request was conducted, however, ignored the questions raised in the 2011 ruling described above, stating that none of the new evidence submitted by the defense counsel could in any way reduce the probative value of the old evidence, and turned down the 2011 ruling. Following such decision, Mr. Maekawa filed for a special appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Decision approved the 2013 decision stating that there had been no contravention of precedent and that there were no other reasons for filing the special appeal in such ruling.
As held in the decisions in the Shiratori and Saitagawa incidents concerning requests for retrial, the clarity of the new evidence should be judged by gaining an overall evaluation of all of the new and old evidence, taking into account a comprehensive reevaluation of the structures of the old evidence, and the iron rule in criminal trials of “in dubio pro reo” (when in doubt, decide for the accused) should also apply to the retrial system. The Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, which made the decision to open the retrial of the Case in 2011, found that: (i) the old evidence, i.e., the witness depositions, was extremely weak; and (ii) the new evidence was clear; this second finding was made after evaluating all of the new and old evidence comprehensively, and considering the testimony provided through the examination of a witness who was a forensic doctor, which was newly conducted at the proceedings for the retrial appeal. It is entirely unacceptable that the Decision was finalized rejecting the appeal without making a specific judgment on the decisions made at the Nagoya High Court in 2013 which overturned the 2011 ruling, with no indication of any reasonable grounds as well as no overall evaluation of the new and old evidence, for example, no taking into full account of the processes leading to the changes in witness depositions regarding their involvement, etc.
The JFBA hereby expresses its determination to continue to exert its best efforts to realize the launch of a retrial for Mr. Maekawa.
December 12, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations