SHIZUOKA – Evidence has emerged in a 1966 quadruple-murder case that suggests the man who was convicted and sent to death row for the crime may have been wrongfully accused because witnesses apparently changed their story during the court of the defendant’s trial, his lawyers said Sunday.
The evidence in favor of Iwao Hakamada, 77, may provide stronger grounds in their appeal for a retrial, the result of which will be decided by the Shizuoka District Court next spring at the earliest.
The lawyers said the evidence amounted to statements made by two colleagues of Hakamada who were staying at the same company dormitory at the time of the June 1966 crime. The statements, apparently what the pair said on initial questioning, were only released in July.
Hakamada, a former professional boxer, was sentenced to hang by the district court in 1968 for the murders of an executive of a miso manufacturer where he worked, the executive’s wife and their two children, in a trial that became known as the “Hakamada case.” The Tokyo High Court upheld the verdict in 1976 and the Supreme Court finalized the sentence in 1980.
The victims’ home was torched and cash was stolen.
During initial police questioning, the colleagues said they had left their rooms when they heard sirens, and Hakamada followed them. They said they tried to put out the fire together with Hakamada.
But the colleagues’ witness statements do not match the finalized court ruling that said no one saw Hakamada from the previous night. The statements, however, support Hakamada’s claim that he was asleep at the dorm at the time, and that he left the dorm after learning about the fire from the two colleagues.
The colleagues’ testimony was found among 130 items of evidence related to the 1966 murders that were disclosed by Shizuoka prosecutors to the court and lawyers in July this year after the court urged the release of evidence.
The statements by the two colleagues had changed during the course of questioning to say that they did not know where Hakamada was when they tried to put out the fire. Lawyers believe that investigators at the time had pressured the two workers to change their witness accounts.
Hakamada, who pleaded not guilty, has filed a second appeal for a retrial, following an unsuccessful appeal in 1981.