Japanese businessman Kazuyoshi Miura, who was being detained in Los Angeles on a murder conspiracy charge over the killing of his wife in southern California in the early 1980s, hanged himself in his cell at a police detention house Friday night, the Los Angeles Police Department said Saturday.
Because of Miura's sudden death, prosecution procedures are expected to be discontinued and discovery of the truth in this high-profile case dating back 27 years will now be extremely difficult.
At a press conference on Saturday morning, police revealed that Miura, 61, who was transferred to Los Angeles from Saipan early Friday morning, was found unconscious in a one-man cell at the detention house of the headquarters of LAPD and was taken to a hospital where his death was confirmed.
Miura appears to have hanged himself with his shirt at around 9:45 p.m. during an interval in patrols by security personnel every 30 minutes.
Miura was alone in his cell at downtown police headquarters when a detention officer found him just 10 minutes after a routine cell inspection had found nothing unusual, Chief of Detectives Charlie Beck said at the news conference.
"It was apparent that the murder suspect, alone in his cell, had used a piece of his shirt as a makeshift ligature around his neck," Beck said.
Officers rushed into the cell and gave Miura cardiopulmonary resuscitation while medical personnel from the dispensary were summoned. Miura did not respond to treatment and was pronounced dead at USC Medical Center, Beck said.
Miura had arrived in Los Angeles early Friday morning after a trip from the U.S. commonwealth of Saipan, where he had been held since his February arrest on a 1988 Los Angeles County warrant alleging murder and conspiracy. He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
"I'm shocked," Miura's attorney, Mark Geragos, said. "One of my lawyers was with him for 12 hours yesterday, and he seemed in good spirits. He was looking forward to fighting this."
Beck declined to answer questions about the motive for the apparent suicide and what the death means to investigators, who had pursued Miura for decades. He said that both he and Detective Rick Jackson, who was on the plane that returned Miura to the United States, were "shocked and disappointed."
"This was not what we had envisioned for this case," Beck said.
Beck said Miura showed no signs of distress when he arrived at the LAPD's Parker Center before 6 a.m. Friday, where he was photographed and fingerprinted while being booked. Miura was not on suicide watch, and authorities had no reason to think he was suicidal, Beck said.
"He was extremely cooperative on the trip over (from Saipan). There were no problems," Beck said. "He had visitors from the (Japanese) consul and met with his attorneys."
Masara Dekiba, the consul general of Japan in California, was also stunned by the suicide. Dekiba spent 15 minutes with him Friday morning and said he looked fine.
Miura asked for his help in making an international telephone call to his wife and wanted the consul to make arrangements for special meals because he was allergic to fried food, Dekiba said.
"Why Mr Miura killed himself I do not know," Dekiba said.
Dekiba said he called the family personally to inform them of Miura's death. Family members planned to fly to Los Angeles to claim the body and take it back to Tokyo once investigations into the death are completed, a process that could take weeks, Dekiba said.
The Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner, where Miura's body was transferred from the morgue at Los Angeles County Hospital early Saturday morning, said it is planning to conduct an autopsy on Sunday to determine the precise cause of death.
His family in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, issued a statement under the name of ''relatives of Miura'' which read, ''We are saddened and at a loss to understand how a situation like this could happen, and feel that the former (company) president should at least have been protected while in custody.''
''We hope the Japanese government will verify the situation as soon as possible,'' they said in the statement, adding they have not received any explanation of the situation from the U.S. government.
Yoichi Kitamura, a lawyer who represented Miura during his trial in Japan, also said, ''He decided to go to Los Angeles after discussing with his attorney Mark Geragos and was about to start his battle in the best spirits. This is simply earth-shattering news.''
Miura was expected to enter a plea at a Los Angeles county court on Tuesday. He had been acquitted of murder in the case in Japan.
Miura's defense team was expected to seek his early release, citing the principle of double jeopardy which prevents a person from being retried in the same case.
Miura had been held on a murder conspiracy charge over the killing of Kazumi, then 28, who was shot in November 1981 while traveling with him in Los Angeles. She died about a year later due to the injury.
In 1994, Miura was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison by the Tokyo District Court, which ruled the actual shooter was an unidentified third party. But in 1998, the Tokyo High Court overturned the ruling and in 2003 the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the decision.
Miura was arrested in Saipan in February this year, however, in connection with the murder case. The arrest warrant said Miura was alleged to have gestured to someone to shoot Kazumi in the head.
Miura denied any involvement in the shooting of his wife and tried to resist being transferred to Los Angeles.
But a court in Saipan turned down Miura's request for habeas corpus to block his transfer on Sept 12, and he later accepted the transfer after his demand for a nullification of the arrest warrant was also rejected by the Los Angeles superior court on Sept. 26.
The Los Angeles court validated an arrest warrant issued for Miura on a murder conspiracy charge -- a charge that does not exist in Japan -- while invalidating a warrant on a murder charge as he had already been tried for murder in the case in Japan.
His attorney earlier said Miura had told him, ''It's time to go to California'' when informed of the court decision.© Wire reports