DNA retest clears man executed last year?

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) The widow of a convicted child-killer hanged last year petitioned for a retrial Wednesday with the Fukuoka District Court, claiming faulty initial DNA test results railroaded a man who had professed his innocence to the end.

The DNA test that courts admitted as evidence in sentencing Michitoshi Kuma to death was conducted around the same time as that of Toshikazu Sugaya, who spent 17 years in prison until newer DNA testing technology effectively cleared him of a girl’s slaying in Tochigi Prefecture.

Lawyers for Kuma’s 62-year-old widow said they plan to demonstrate that initial DNA tests carried out on him were also defective, and unlike in Sugaya’s case, samples taken in connection with the 1992 kidnap-slayings of two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, are unavailable for fresh analysis.

“The test method was still in the developmental stage and its sensitivity was poor. The criteria for determining the DNA type were also nascent and the results are inadmissible,” the lawyers said in a statement.

They asked Katsuya Honda, a forensics expert and professor at Tsukuba University, to examine Kuma’s DNA from hair and other body tissues using the same MCT118 method initially employed during the investigation by the National Research Institute of Police Science, and found it differed from the type admitted by the courts as the culprit’s.

Honda was also involved in the fresh DNA analysis that found Sugaya’s DNA did not match the bodily fluid found on the 4-year-old girl slain in 1990 in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, leading to his retrial, which started Oct. 21 and is expected to end in his acquittal.

“According to the latest analysis method, the DNA type that was admitted as the culprit’s in the final ruling and that of the former death row inmate are different, and his innocence is obvious,” the lawyers said.

Kuma, 70, was hanged last October. The Supreme Court in September 2006 rejected his appeal.