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Lawyer reports efforts to reopen case to clear hanged inmate’s name

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo

A lawyer involved in a capital case warned Tuesday an innocent man may have been executed over a 1992 murder, based on insufficient evidence, including a less-accurate DNA test.

In a speech in Tokyo, Yasuyuki Tokuda, who is working to reopen the case against Michitoshi Kuma, said fresh studies indicate the DNA and blood type of Kuma is different from that of the real culprit and it is highly likely that an eyewitness just followed the findings of investigators, thus the testimony was not credible.

Kuma was hanged nearly five years ago at the age of 70 for kidnapping and killing two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, a murder known as the “Iizuka Case,” although he consistently pleaded his innocence.

Tokuda has submitted the findings to the Fukuoka District Court as “new evidence” for the retrial.

“Mr. Kuma was executed while we, the defense team, were preparing to file a request for retrial,” he said in a speech organized by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. “We hope he will be acquitted through the retrial, although he has already passed away, so we can ask society if capital punishment should be maintained.”