crime

Japan court denies retrial for 95-year-old woman over 1979 murder

18 Comments

A Japanese district court denied a retrial Wednesday for a 95-year-old woman who served 10 years in prison for the 1979 murder of her brother-in-law in Kagoshima Prefecture.

It was the fourth attempt by Ayako Haraguchi to clear her name, with Presiding judge Masato Nakata saying that the new evidence presented by the defense was "not clear" enough to acquit her.

Two previous requests for a retrial were approved by district courts but later rejected by upper courts. Haraguchi's lawyers said they will prepare to appeal the Wednesday decision to the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court.

The decision by the Kagoshima District Court was made after examining whether Kunio Nakamura, 42, died accidentally and not by strangulation as recognized by a 1980 district court ruling, as well as the credibility of her relatives' confessions.

Haraguchi was arrested in October 1979, along with three other family members including her husband at the time, on suspicion of strangling Nakamura with a towel and abandoning his body in a cattle barn beside his home in the town of Osaki earlier that month.

In Wednesday's decision, Haraguchi's former husband, who was sentenced to eight years in prison and has since died, was also denied a posthumous retrial.

In the 1980 ruling, the district court found Haraguchi guilty of killing Nakamura on the grounds that her sister-in-law said Haraguchi proposed the murder, suggesting she had been unhappy about Nakamura's conduct. Her sentence was finalized in 1981.

Haraguchi has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with no evidence presented by the prosecution that directly linked her to the murder.

She filed her first request for a retrial in 1995 after fully serving her 10-year term in 1990. The district court granted the request but it was overturned by a high court.

Her third retrial request was granted by the district court and the ruling was upheld by a high court, but the Supreme Court rejected the lower court decisions in 2019, saying that the previous testimonies were trustworthy.

In the fourth request filed in March 2020, her lawyers submitted new evidence claiming that Nakamura had died as a result of an accidental fall into a ditch earlier in the evening while he was intoxicated.

The evidence included a forensic report reexamined by an emergency physician based on photos taken at the autopsy and previous trial statements by the autopsy doctor.

It also covered analysis by experts in psychology and information science of residents' statements that corroborated the time of the murder. The proceedings were concluded in January this year.

© KYODO

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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At age 97 ? and has served more than 40 years!!! she should be freed. Sha has paid more than enough for her crime assuming she did it!?

Other are being sentenced 8 to 15 years for much worse crime, so why is she getting treated differently?

She spent 10 years in jail, not 40.

18 ( +19 / -1 )

Why can’t they just use a lie detector and then give her a Truth serium drug and look her in the eyes and ask, “Did you do it?”

Mostly because neither of those things work and are not ethical either, "truth serum" can make a person more cooperative, but not necessarily more honest and instead can make the subject have altered recollection and have implanted memories. Polygraphs are also horribly unreliable and very subjective, so it is not more than a coin toss.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Very hard to prove a negative. But if there is no direct evidence linking her to the murder, it certainly all could have been a big mistake.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

How was she convicted of murder if there was no evidence linking her to the crime? The burden of proof should be on the accusers and not on her.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Haraguchi has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with no evidence presented by the prosecution that directly linked her to the murder.

This is worth highlighting.

Generally 95 year olds who have already served their prison sentence anyway don't go to the trouble of launching expensive and difficult legal fights to clear their names unless they actually are innocent. Sounds like the case against her was largely based on conjecture from discredited testimony, which from past experience is often the case with wrongful convictions in Japan.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

She needs closure and that means to clear her name as she probably already feels that her end is near.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Why can’t they just use a lie detector and then give her a Truth serium drug and look her in the eyes and ask, “Did you do it?”

Because life isn’t a cartoon.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

it's pretty rare to win an unguilty verdict once you get prosecuted.

I hope the investigation process has become more cautious now than in the 80s.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No clear evidence and direct proof you gotta let the person go free.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How was she convicted of murder if there was no evidence linking her to the crime? The burden of proof should be on the accusers and not on her.

Japan’s criminal justice system very much relies on the premise “no smoke without fire”. If the police arrested you, they’ve got to have a good reason, right?

I remember reading about a law professor at Waseda who was known as the best defense attorney in the entire country, because in his 40-year career, he got a not guilty verdict 6 times.

Not 600. Not 60. Not 16. Six.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Haraguchi has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with no evidence presented by the prosecution that directly linked her to the murder.

So she was found guilty because of hearsay!!!!

In the 1980 ruling, the district court found Haraguchi guilty of killing Nakamura on the grounds that her sister-in-law said Haraguchi proposed the murder, suggesting she had been unhappy about Nakamura's conduct. 

So, in Japan a rumor can land one in jail!!!

This is worse than kangaroo justice!!!!

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

Forced confessions from relatives...rings me a bell.

Medieval Japan justice.

And no will to change aka Goshn vs Nippon.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

It also covered analysis by experts in psychology and information science of residents' statements that corroborated the time of the murder.

What is "information science"?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Goodness, sounds like how the Americans found Afghan spies. Someone would say 'the guy living at No:10 is a spy' and in swooped the military to arrest him

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Goodness, sounds like how the Americans found Afghan spies. Someone would say 'the guy living at No:10 is a spy' and in swooped the military to arrest him

If you go back 400 years before that, somebody only had to say that a certain woman was a witch. Anybody visiting or living in Japan need to watch a 1970's British movie "Witchfinder General". (Vincent Price). This is how Japan seems to work in the 20th, 21st century.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Haraguchi has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with no evidence presented by the prosecution that directly linked her to the murder.

Presumption of innocence is an alien concept to the j-justice.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

At age 97 ? and has served more than 40 years!!! she should be freed. Sha has paid more than enough for her crime assuming she did it!?

Other are being sentenced 8 to 15 years for much worse crime, so why is she getting treated differently?

-12 ( +6 / -18 )

Why can’t they just use a lie detector and then give her a Truth serium drug and look her in the eyes and ask, “Did you do it?”

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

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