Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forced Confession and Retrial

"A high court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision to retry two men who were convicted of murdering a carpenter in 1967.

"The Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal filed by prosecutors against a decision made by the Mito District Court's Tsuchiura branch to open a retrial of Shoji Sakurai, 61, and Takao Sugiyama, 61.

""There are serious doubts about the credibility of their statement, raising reasonable doubts about the conviction," Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kadono said as he handed down the decision.

"It remains to be seen if prosecutors will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. If they abandon their appeal, a retrial will open.

""Finally, the court decided to open a retrial. We'll try hard (to win acquittal), so please continue to support us," Sugiyama told his supporters outside the court.

""Finally, clear facts were recognized. It was a long fight. I really appreciate the support by our lawyers and supporters. Although the court decided to open a retrial, our struggle will continue," Sakurai said.

"Sakurai and Sugiyama were released on parole in 1996 after they were sentenced to life imprisonment and spent 18 years behind bars.

"Presiding Judge Kadono upheld the lower court's judgment that their statements on how they killed the victim do not match the conditions of the victim's body.

"He recognized new evidence presented by their lawyers indicating that the culprit stuffed underpants into the victim's mouth after strangling him.

""The statements that the two made during investigations to the effect that they first put underpants in the victim's mouth, then strangled him, contradict with the facts," Kadono said.

"The appeal court judge also pointed out that the statements made by Sakurai and Sugiyama changed from time to time.

""It is presumed that their statements changed from time to time in an unnatural way because they didn't actually experience what they confessed to doing," he said.

"The presiding judge also noted that their fingerprints and hair were not found at the murder scene.

"Furthermore, Kadono pointed to the possibility that a tape recording of their confessions had been edited, and said investigators may have led them into making confessions.

"The incident occurred in 1967. Shoten Tamamura, then 62, was murdered at his home in Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture, and about 110,000 yen was stolen from him. Ibaraki Prefectural Police arrested Sakurai and Sugiyama for murder and robbery later in the year.

"Sakurai and Sugiyama admitted to the allegations during investigations. However, they pleaded not guilty during their district court trial. They were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1970 and the conviction was confirmed after the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal in 1978."

By Mainichi Shimbun (7/14/2008), Link to article (last visited 7/15/2008)

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