Statement on Retrial of Ashikaga Murder Case
Today, the Tokyo High Court decided to retry Mr. Toshikazu Sugaya. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) contemplates the physical and mental hardships experienced by Mr. Sugaya as he proclaimed his innocence during his unjust detention lasting more than 17 years. We, as members of the legal profession with a pivotal role in the dispensation of justice, are aware of our responsibility for his suffering.
Today’s decision was based on the results of DNA retesting conducted by expert witnesses recommended by both prosecutors and defense attorneys. However, the JFBA deplores the fact that the Tokyo High Court did not clearly point out that the result of the first DNA test conducted by the National Research Institute of Police Science, which led to the arrest and conviction of Mr. Sugaya, was incorrect.
In order to determine the causes of this miscarriage of justice, the JFBA urges the Utsunomiya District Court to thoroughly examine how a false confession was obtained from Mr. Sugaya during police interrogations and how the incorrect result of the first DNA test conducted by the experts of the National Research Institute of Police Science was obtained. Furthermore, the court should clarify how the judges and other legal professionals concerned failed to fulfill their responsibilities when each of the four requests for DNA re-testing was refused, and Mr. Sugaya should be acquitted immediately.
Judges and other legal professionals involved in the dispensation of justice should learn from this incident in order to avoid the miscarriage of justice and should always keep in mind the important legal principle of in dubio pro reo (when in doubt, in favor of the accused).
The JFBA continues its utmost efforts to clarify why this miscarriage of justice occurred and to support Mr. Sugaya until his acquittal.
June 23, 2009
Japan Federation of Bar Associations