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Retrial appeal in ’79 murder case rejected

Woman claimed confessions by alleged accomplices were forced

Kyodo

The Kagoshima District Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal for a retrial filed by a woman who served a 10-year prison term for killing her brother-in-law in 1979.

The decision came after the district court in 2002 decided to reopen the case involving Ayako Haraguchi, 85, but was later overruled by the Fukuoka High Court in 2004. The high court’s decision was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court.

The murder occurred in October 1979. Kunio Nakamura, 42, was found dead in a cattle stable beside his home in the town of Osaki, Kagoshima Prefecture. Haraguchi and three other suspects — Nakamura’s two brothers and a nephews of his — were subsequently arrested and indicted over the slaying. The elder brother was married to Haraguchi at the time.

All four were found guilty by the Kagoshima District Court the following year. The three men did not contest the ruling, but Haraguchi has persistently pleaded not guilty and taken her case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against her and let her 10-year prison term stand, based on confessions by her three coconspirators.

Following her release in 1990, Haraguchi filed the first appeal for a retrial with the district court in 1995, which ruled in her favor. After the plea was rejected by the high and top courts, she filed a second appeal for a retrial in 2010, with her defense team arguing the three men considered her accomplices were mentally incompetent and had been forced by investigators into confessing to the crime.

The team also submitted new evidence, including a psychologist’s written opinion stating the confessions of the three men were most likely not based on their personal experiences.