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World's longest-serving death row inmate freed in Japan

By Hiroshi Hiyama

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Ah, the wheels of the justice system move swiftly in Japan.

15 ( +22 / -7 )

A KO victory?

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

if it doesn't fit, you must acquit

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Makes you think how many have been executed with fabricated evidence?

33 ( +34 / -2 )

Surely the key here is that the judge who had doubts was 'outvoted'.

I'd have thought that, particularly where somebody's life is at stake, any guilty verdict should be unanimous.

Cops, eh? As individuals they're as human as the rest of us; as an organisation, I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw the whole lot of them....

10 ( +11 / -2 )

I hope the man gets a fair trial and the truth is found out if it hasn't been already. I personally don't agree with capital punishment in any but the most indisputable of cases, as we all know that if the wrong people have a motive to see you guilty, it doesn't matter what the truth is.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

in some ways, it would have been better if they just executed him. putting a man in solitary confinement for almost fifty years is cruel and unusual punishment.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

47 years of solitary confinement. 38,000 mornings.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I expect if you dig a little deeper, you'll probably find some policeman or prosecutor involved in the original case died recently. This means the case can be reopened without risk of offending the (probably older) recently deceased; (heaven forbid a 'senpai' could be in the wrong). Then again, sadly, with investigative journalism non-existent in Japan, I doubt any such digging will be done....

14 ( +19 / -5 )

Not sure why the first two comments are jokes. actually I think its serious sarcasm. whats a joke is the legal system here in Japan. it would be funny if it didnt affect peoples lives. 47years in prison for something that investigators may have fabricated evidence. that is fracken disgusting. if hes found to be innocent then these so called investigators should be imprisoned. (if theyre still alive)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not the first time for Japan. Sadamichi Hirasawa was on death row (for allegedly poisoning 12 Teikoku Bank employees and their family members) from 1949 to 1986. The Justice Minister refused to sign off on the execution, and he died in a prison hospital of old age.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I remember first hearing about this case way back in 1990 and thinking "that's not justice."

I can't even begin to discuss all that's wrong w this. You guys have at it. I just anted to register my outrage at a system that denies justice to basically all involved, but is never held to account for grevious miscarriages of justice.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Surely the key here is that the judge who had doubts was 'outvoted'.

Embarrassing. If only they could've beaten a consensus out of him.

2 ( +2 / -1 )

If they can prove that the cops fabricated evidence then the police officers responsible should be executed. That's simple justice. If they were prepared to fabricate evidence to secure the death penalty against someone then the only fair and just punishment is that they be sentenced to death.

-8 ( +6 / -15 )

If they can prove that the cops fabricated evidence

In Japan? Dream on.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

This case perfectly illustrates one of the main reasons why the death penalty is always wrong. The other reasons are that it is not a deterrent to murder, and that it lowers the rest of us and society as a whole to the same level as the killer. Unfortunately that debate, which has been long concluded in most modern countries and is gaining pace even in the United States, has barely even begun in Japan. Which leaves Japan in what should be the very uncomfortable company of its fellow killer-states such as China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. Oh and Texas, of course.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

"Makes you think how many have been executed with fabricated evidence?" but for the greatest good of society. So no matter how often this happens, the people involved can still tell them selves it was for the greater good, and they sleep like babies at night. Japan has one of the lowest murder and violent crime rates in the entire world. People know even if they even SUSPECT you are guilty, you are as good as convicted. So for the greater good they have a near 95% conviction rate. Not a defense of their actions. But I am sure that is how they see it and justify it. And hey. I don't know about you, but I feel a hell of lot safe here than in the USA.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

if he found not guilty, will he be entitled to compensation ? and how much would he get? but something tells me it won't be in his life time.

2 ( +1 / -0 )

I wonder how many people in this country have been wrongly executed for a crime they didn't commit.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end of Japan's forced confession system, which it is but that they proudly boast is a country with a 99% conviction rate. At the very least it hopefully gets cameras in the rooms, despite the police being against it.

Forget about the fact that he has been on death row for nearly half a century in what sounds undoubtedly like a forced confession and just take into account the fact that his guilt was doubted DECADES ago but nothing done! This guy is owed some serious justice, but at 78 and after 48 years of that being on death row... I cannot possibly imagine how the scum that claim to be the system can make up for this man's loss.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

if the guy is innocent - and perhaps he is, then this is terrible.

however, just cause there are car accidents and MANY innocent people die on our roads, does NOT mean we will ban cars right?

there is a purpose for the death sentence. not a deterrent? just which study says this? you can create a study for anything, and I am SURE the against death penalty group were behind such a study.

eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. if done properly (unlike stupid USA with all the appeals) then it does save a lot of money as well as bringing JUSTICE to the victim and family.

I worked as a prison officer and read a lot of the court reports (NOT media reports which are not allowed to go into the specifics) regarding some TERRIBLE crimes against children. Little girls being anally raped, beaten and then stabbed multiple times whilst her cousin lay stabbed multiple times watching all this happen. You have absolutely no idea.

Sure, save the dolphins, the whales, the bees etc but NOT these filthy disgusting freaks.

I also totally agree that if any cop/prosecutor were to fabricate ANY evidence, then they themselves serve serious time.

Also, death penalty should not be all that easy, there must be not just DNA but other conclusive evidence.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Eye for an eye right? In that case, anyone involved in a wrongful conviction, holding and execution of an innocent person should be executed for murder. I am sure as a prison officer you have had some involvement somewhere. What would you like for your last meal?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There but for the grace of God go I.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No confession should be admitted as evidence unless it was recorded or video recorded in full, and/or unless it is reaffirmed by the accused in open court. Rather than the police and prosecution relying on confessions as evidence, they should be required to present, erm, evidence. And real evidence at that. Not fabrications.


I agree terrible crimes are committed and the criminals need to be severely punished. But most murders are committed by people closely connected by their victims, and in such cases, usually crimes of passion, the killer is not thinking about the death penalty. Nor does killing the perpetrator do anything to negate the pain and suffering of the victim or the victim's relatives. As for killing convicted killers saving money - well I would hope the debate is being conducted on a higher level than that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

From what his family have said in the press, he is now so messed up that he would probably not be able to function on his own outside jail anyways.

This story is absolutely appauling, my heart goes out to this poor guy.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Kingbee: so you are in favor of the execution of the executioners? There is ZERO difference when it comes down to the fact that a life has been taken at your hands. And I'm sorry to see that one of your priorities in defending the death penalty is money. Include the compensation money ths guy should be given on top of his time on death row, as well as the pay for the cops who did not do their jobs, and tell me how that compares to if they had. They want to wrap up cases here quick so they can get back to smoking and drinking coffee, and THAT is the problem here--wanting to look good without doing the actually BE good.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

So will they now go after the prosecutors & cops who DID this..........................my bet is the locals wont even think about this aspect! Japan is a damned scary place if the cops ever decide to come for you!

Even today they can pick you up, force a confession & your a goner, NOTHING HAS CHANGED!!

Even if the cops & prosecutors who COMMITTED THESE CRIMES are dead they should be dug & prosecuted forth with!

Fat chance of that, just think right now how many dirty cops & prosecutors are among us, the numbers must be staggering!

2 ( +2 / -0 )


I don't know about you, but I feel a hell of lot safe here than in the USA.

Sure you'd say that after being on death row for nearly half a century for a crime you didn't commit?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This reminds me a lot of the Ruben "Hurricane" Carter case.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I always argue against capital punishment by saying that if we sentence people to life in prison, we can always release them and make amends if proof later shows them to not be guilty, but if this man is actually proved innocent an apology hardly seems enough to expiate 48 years, some would say a lifetime, of false imprisonment. If he is actually proved innocent, ironically I really hope those who fabricated the evidence against him are hanged immediately -- as they have already lived their lives in lieu of Hakamada.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I saw on NHK News that a lawyer said the prosecutors and judges involved in Hakamada's conviction should reflect deeply. How about a lengthy jail sentence and consfication of all of their assets and give them to Hakamada after his retrial resulting in his acquittal?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Once you enter death row in Japan, you're considered for all intents and purposes already dead. Visits from attorneys or family members are few and far between. You eat and bathe and exercise alone and aren't permitted to talk to the guards or other prisoners. With this kind of sensory deprivation, more than a few death row inmates eventually lose their mind long before they are ever led to the gallows. From the TV images of Hakamada, I wondered what sort of shape he's in mentally. Probably not good. And even if he's exonerated in a new trial, I doubt if he'll be able to serve as any kind of public symbol for miscarriages of justice.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Wow... What a screwjob by the Government!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This is a response I read to this story and I thought these were the perfect questions to ask and what we as a human society should hold them accountable for.

Why do prosecutors never go to jail? Why do police extracting false confessions never go to jail? Why does the NSA lie under Oath and never go to jail? The only people who go to jail are people who the government, police, and prosecutors decide.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is third world level madness, and we live in it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

That 2010 movie, 'Box', is based on this man's case.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have no comment on how Japan applies justice to 'doubtful' or 'proven' conviction. But I believe most of the accused or convicted prisoners would prefer death than solitary confinement for 47 years. That's one half a man's life gone to waste. How would that person suppose to live thereafter? Happy, or the same misery? Tsk tsk, difficult choices, huh?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

not exactly a nail in the coffin of capital punishment but a thumb tack is a start

can he sue the government for deleting his life?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Even if the guy gets out he will never get his life back and those responsible should pay for his happiness ever after

1 ( +2 / -1 )

They probably didn't kill him because deep down everybody new he didn't do it. But the System couldn't do anything about it until the corrupt cops and prosecutors involve in the case died. This way nobody loses face.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just watched this on CNN. I can't imagine not speaking to anyone (solitary confinement) for 48 years. I can't imagine knowing you are innocent and no one to listen for 48 years. Shame shame shame on forced confessions.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

47 years in solitary is beyond comprehension. It's a terrible punishment even if he was guilty. But to be innocent? Man, I can't imagine what he was feeling day in and out.

I'm so glad that his sister believed in him and never gave up. I'm glad she lives to see him set free. It's too bad that he's messed up though :( I wish him (and his sister) peaceful years to come.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Watching him on TV he is struggling to take it all in being outside, etc. He will need a good mental councillor. Soon being released will feel like another punishment.

Same back home for many murderers who served a lifetime sentence(20yrs). They end up hardly knowing anybody or anything about the new world they are put inyo?.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm so glad that his sister believed in him and never gave up.

Too right. I have a son and a daughter. They get on very well, but 47 years is a long time to wait.

One of the three judges, Norimichi Kumamoto, the one that believed Hakamada innocent but was outvoted, was so convinced of, and haunted by, Hakamada's innocence that he gave up his job as a judge six months after the case to become a lawyer working for the retrial eventually, now, achieved. He is quoted as saying, "I could not persuade the other judges. I could not forget the image of Hakamada saying "I didn't do it." When I remember it I cry. I continue to regret it and want to make amends." In the years following the trial he got into trouble when he had been drinking, going to the police saying "I killed an innocent man. Arrest me!" He went on to lead a very bumpy life, eventually become homeless. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%86%8A%E6%9C%AC%E5%85%B8%E9%81%93

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The world will be a helluva lot to take in after 47 years of complete isolation and solitude. Getting used to speaking and being spoken to. Choosing what to eat and when.

And then, stepping outside ... everything is different. Think about how much everyday life has changed since 1966.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan needs an 'Innocence Project' (USA)?... "the IP mission - is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment......... "DNA Exoneree Case Profiles.. There have been 314 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through postconviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself. The common themes that run through these cases, from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel, cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.

Eighteen people had been sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence and led to their release.

The average sentence served by DNA exonerees has been 13.6 years.

About 70 percent of those exonerated by DNA testing are people of color."

"In almost 50 percent of DNA exoneration cases, the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing" The Innocence Project - Understand the Causes http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/ .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Every questioning must be required by law to be visually and audio recorded, or nothing will change. (Self evident truth applicable worldwide).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan has a conviction rate of around 99% and claims of heavy-handed police interrogations persist under a long-held belief that a confession is the gold standard of guilt.

Who still defends this crazy system? The prosecutors practically can't make a mistake? N-boy?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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