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Thursday, July 22, 2010

EDITORIAL

Retrial of the Fukawa case

A retrial of the Fukawa case — in which two men were given life sentences for their conviction of a murder-robbery committed 43 years ago — started July 9 at Mito District Court's Tsuchiura branch. In the case, no material evidence came forth. Mr. Shoji Sakurai and Mr. Takao Sugiyama, convicted on the strength of confessions and eyewitness accounts, spent 26 years behind bars before being paroled in 1996. Their case strengthens the argument for video taping the entire interrogation process.

On Aug. 30, 1967, a carpenter was found dead of strangulation at his home at Fukawa in Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture. He had been robbed of ¥100,700. The two men were arrested as suspects in October that year.

In the second lawsuit to request a retrial, the prosecution produced an eyewitness account of the physical description of a man seen near the victim's home around the time of the crime that differed from that of Mr. Sugiyama's. The prosecution also presented a tape recording of part of Mr. Sakurai's interrogation in an effort to quash the retrial request. Experts found that the recording had been edited in at least 11 places. The prosecution had hidden the eyewitness account and the audio recording of the interrogation for more than 30 years.

The defense counsel said on July 9 that an important portion of the interrogation was missing and pointed out that part of investigators' records of the confessions Mr. Sugiyama and Mr. Sakurai made on different dates contain identical content that differs from the objective facts. Thus, the defense said, it's obvious that investigators used leading questions.

The prosecution asked for a DNA test of four articles of clothing left at the crime scene, including a shirt and a towel that it claims the two men used to bind the victim's legs. The prosecution believes that the clothes may carry the two men's finger marks. But these items were stored at room temperaturefor more than 40 years. Investigators may have shown these items to the men during their interrogations and their finger marks may have been left on them at that time. One wonders whether a DNA test would be credible.



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