OSAKA — A former nursery school teacher who was falsely accused of murder and had to battle for more than 25 years to clear her name said Thursday she would not seek a public apology from Japan’s media for reports portraying her as guilty.
Etsuko Yamada said Japan’s media has made no effort to issue an apology, such as that extended by the U.S. media to American Richard Jewell, who was widely publicized in the United States as the main suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.
“There was an apology from the court, but I will not seek a further apology from the media. Partially because I don’t have the energy,” Yamada said in her first appearance before the media since the Osaka High Court issued in September the final not-guilty verdict in a 21-year court battle. “How could they apologize now, and in what form?”
Jewell visited Yamada in Kobe in 1997 and encouraged her to battle the media, saying they get away with too many human rights abuses — both in Japan and the U.S.
“The only thing I’ve received from the Japanese media so far is an attitude of ‘It can’t be helped because that’s what the police press clubs told us,’ ” she said.
Yamada was 22 on March 17, 1974, when a 12-year-old girl disappeared from Kabutoyama Gakuen, a school in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, for children with learning disabilities.
Two days later, a 12-year-old boy also disappeared and police found the bodies in a water purifying tank on the school’s grounds.
Although the girl’s death was ruled accidental, police had other ideas about the boy’s death.
Yamada described the events of the period: “I was arrested for murder. It was an emotional time and the media sensationalized the case,” she said. “They wrote sensational things about me after I was arrested based on what police and prosecutors were saying.”
Yamada was found not guilty in 1985 by the Kobe District Court. Prosecutors appealed to the Osaka High Court, which overturned the lower court’s ruling in 1990 and ordered the case to be tried again.
In 1998, the Kobe District Court again found her innocent, but prosecutors once more appealed to the Osaka High Court.
On Sept. 29, 1999, Yamada was found not guilty by the high court and prosecutors dropped the case.
“I learned a lot over the years,” she said. “But mostly that in order to become a better person you must fight for your political rights.”