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Friday, Aug. 3, 2012
Prosecution should cut its losses
The Tokyo High Court on July 31 turned down an objection filed by the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office over the court's June 7 decision to retry a Nepalese man who had been given a life sentence for the 1997 robbery-murder of a 39-year-old woman in Tokyo.
The prosecution should not appeal the court decision to the Supreme Court because developments so far point to the strong possibility that the Nepalese man, Mr. Govinda Prasad Mainali, is innocent.
The high court's decision to retry Mr. Mainali was based on DNA evidence that suggested that the perpetrator was not him. In handing down the June 7 and July 31 decisions, the high court said that if the new evidence — which surfaced after the defense counsel had filed a retrial request and whose main pillar is the DNA evidence — had been submitted to the original trial, it is very difficult to conclude that the man would have been found guilty.
The possibility that the case is based on false charges is decisively strong. After the June 7 decision, Mr. Mainali was released from prison and allowed to return to Nepal.
Attention also should be paid to the fact that the high court made the decision to reject the prosecution's objection at unprecedented speed.
Mr. Mainali was arrested four days after a female employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. was found dead in a vacant apartment in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya Ward, on March 19, 1997. He was living nearby and had a key to the apartment and semen left in a condom found in the apartment's toilet matched his DNA. Although the Tokyo District Court found him innocent in April 2000, the Tokyo High Court in December the same year found him guilty.
Semen also had been found inside the woman's body, but the prosecution did not carry out a DNA test on the grounds that the amount was too small.
In hearings to request a retrial, Mr. Mainali's defense counsel called for a DNA test of the semen. A DNA test in July 2011 found that the semen's DNA did not match Mr. Mainali's DNA but did match the DNA of a strand of hair left on the carpet at the scene and of saliva left on the woman's chest, both someone else's.
It is deplorable that the prosecution did not disclose the existence of the saliva until after the defense counsel filed the retrial request. Also, only after prodding from the court did the prosecution reveal that it was keeping the semen in question in a freezer.
It is clear that the Diet must enact a law that requires the prosecution to disclose all evidence it possesses at the start of a trial and punishes public prosecutors who fail to do so. In the expected retrial of Mr. Mainali, the prosecution should be honest enough to admit that he is innocent.