Retrial ordered for man sentenced to death in 1968

March 27, 2014


SHIZUOKA--A court here ordered a retrial for a former professional boxer who had been on death row for decades, saying his conviction for a quadruple murder was likely based on fake evidence.

The Shizuoka District Court on March 27, citing the results of new DNA tests, said Iwao Hakamada, 78, should be found not guilty in the retrial.

“It is suspected that investigative agencies fabricated key evidence,” Presiding Judge Hiroaki Murayama said. “There is reasonable doubt that he committed the crime.”

Hakamada was released from the Tokyo Detention House the same day, his first taste of freedom since the mid-1960s.

Hakamada, who worked at a plant of a miso paste company in Shizuoka Prefecture, was arrested in August 1966 on suspicion of murdering a company executive, his wife, and their daughter and son in a robbery two months earlier. He was also accused of setting the family’s home on fire.

Investigators obtained 45 written confessions from Hakamada, although he denied the allegations during his trial. The district court, in fact, rejected 44 of the confessions, saying they were obtained through illegal interrogation methods.

However, the court did accept the one remaining written confession. A year after the killings, five bloodstained clothing items were discovered at the plant. Prosecutors said the blood was Hakamada’s, and that he wore those clothes when he killed the family.

The court sentenced Hakamada to death in September 1968. The sentence was finalized by the Supreme Court in November 1980.

Hakamada filed an appeal for a retrial in 1981, but the district court dismissed it in 1994. He again sought a retrial in 2008.

An attempt to collect DNA from the blood on the clothing failed during Hakamada’s first retrial appeal.

But in the court screening for his second call for a retrial, DNA tests, conducted separately by prosecutors and his attorneys, showed that the blood was not Hakamada’s.

Prosecutors doubted the reliability of the DNA tests, arguing that the DNA may have degraded over the years.

But the court said the results of the tests presented clear evidence that Hakamada should be found not guilty and that his death sentence should be put on hold.

“The decision was contrary to our expectations,” said a senior prosecutor at the Shizuoka District Public Prosecutors Office. “We will take countermeasures after discussing the matter with higher administrative agencies.”

Hakamada is the sixth death-row inmate in Japan to be granted a retrial. In four of the past five cases, the suspects were found not guilty following re-examinations of their cases.

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Iwao Hakamada leaves the Tokyo Detention House in Katsushika Ward on March 27. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

Iwao Hakamada leaves the Tokyo Detention House in Katsushika Ward on March 27. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

  • Iwao Hakamada leaves the Tokyo Detention House in Katsushika Ward on March 27. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)
  • The elder sister of Iwao Hakamada, who was sentenced to death in 1968, speaks to reporters on March 27 after the Shizuoka District Court accepted his request for a retrial. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

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