77-year-old murderess denied retrial by court

Kyodo

A high court on Thursday rejected the retrial plea of a 77-year-old woman who served 10 years in prison for the murder of her brother-in-law in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1979.

Ayako Haraguchi, who insists she is innocent, served 10 years for murdering farmer Kunio Nakamura, 42, in October 1979.

In 2002, the Kagoshima District Court moved to reopen the trial. The Fukuoka High Court’s Miyazaki branch reversed this decision Thursday, however, stating that new evidence produced by the defense lacks substance.

Nakamura’s body was found in a barn next to his house in the town of Osaki.

Haraguchi, her husband and another brother of the victim were later charged with murder, while a cousin of the victim, Yoshinori Nakamura, was charged with having joined the three others in dumping the victim’s body.

In 1980, the Kagoshima District Court ruled that Haraguchi and the two other murder defendants had strangled the victim with a towel.

Haraguchi appealed the ruling, but her conviction was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1981. The three others did not appeal the district court verdict.

After completing her 10-year term in 1990, Haraguchi filed a plea with the Kagoshima court in 1995. Yoshinori Nakamura later joined her in the retrial plea.

In March 2002, the Kagoshima court decided to reopen the case, citing suspicions that the investigators who handled the case may have coerced one of the accused, who was mentally retarded, to make a false confession that also implicated Haraguchi in the crime.

The Kagoshima court also stated that new evidence produced after the first trial raised doubt over whether the victim had been strangled, as police had alleged.

Prosecutors appealed the 2002 decision, saying the initial investigation had been conducted appropriately.

Yoshinori Nakamura committed suicide in 2001. His mother, who took over her son’s retrial campaign, died in January.

Haraguchi’s lawyers said they would appeal to the Supreme Court.