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HOME  > Past issues  > 2023 March 15 - 21  > Criminal retrial system should be revised to save victims of false accusation
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2023 March 15 - 21 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Criminal retrial system should be revised to save victims of false accusation

March 15, 2023

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Tokyo High Court on March 13 decided to grant a retrial to an 87-year-old man, Hakamada Iwao, who was sentenced to death over a 1966 case in which four members of a family running a soybean processing firm in Shizuoka Prefecture were murdered. It has been 57 years since he was arrested and over 40 years since his death sentence was finalized. Unceasing efforts made by Hakamada, who maintains his innocence, along with his lawyers and supporters finally bore fruit and opened the door for the retrial. The prosecution authority should accept the court decision.

Hakamada and his legal team have repeatedly filed requests for retrial after the Supreme Court finalized his death sentence in 1980. The first retrial request was rejected, but in 2014, the Shizuoka District Court ordered a retrial. Hakamata became the first prisoner to be freed from death row. In 2018, the Tokyo High Court overturned the district court ruling. However, the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to reconsider its decision on the grounds of insufficient examination, which led to the latest high court decision.

The situation regarding the retrial of Hakamada highlighted flaws in Japan’s criminal retrial system. The existing legislation has few provisions regarding a retrial. It is not too much to say that Japan has no rule regarding a retrial. Disclosure of the prosecution evidence is left up to a single judge’s decision.

The current system should be improved by such means as amending the criminal procedure law so that the prosecution team in a court examination on a retrial request will be obliged to present evidence not submitted in the original trial. In addition, it is necessary to introduce a rule prohibiting prosecutors from filing a complaint against a retrial order.

Past related article:
> Supporters’ efforts lead to court decision to free death-row convict [March 28, 2014]
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