No retrial for man hanged over ’92 slayings in Fukuoka

Judges dismiss new evidence suggesting flaws in DNA testing

Kyodo

The Fukuoka District Court decided Monday not to reopen a 1992 murder case in which a man was executed six years ago for killing two young girls, dismissing new evidence brought forward by his lawyers.

The decision not to grant a posthumous retrial to Michitoshi Kuma, who consistently maintained his innocence, came just days after another court decided to reopen a 1966 quadruple murder case and free 78-year-old Iwao Hakamada from death row after nearly 48 years in detention.

Kuma’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision.

Presiding Judge Koji Hiratsuka said there was “no reasonable doubt” about the determination of Kuma’s guilt, and that the court found “no credibility” in the new evidence provided by his lawyers “that would award him a not-guilty verdict.”

Kuma was hanged in 2008 at age 70 for the kidnapping and murder of two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Kuma’s widow petitioned the court in 2009 for a retrial, arguing that false DNA test results had led to his conviction.

His lawyers argued that the quality of the DNA tests was poor and thus not credible, and submitted an analysis by a forensics expert showing that Kuma’s DNA was not the same as the DNA type admitted by the court as the culprit’s.

Hiratsuka said Monday that the analysis put forward by the lawyers of the negatives used by police in the DNA tests in the 1990s is “nothing but an abstract inference” and not based on a new DNA test.

The lawyers also submitted as new evidence an analysis saying that Kuma had blood type of B, while the killer’s blood type was AB, as well as an expert psychological opinion that said witness testimony linking the slayings to Kuma may have been influenced by investigators.

The court denied that any of the new evidence was credible, concluding that evidence other than DNA test results also established grounds for Kuma’s conviction.

Kuma insisted during police questioning he was not involved in the murders and pleaded not guilty in his trial.

Both the Fukuoka district and high courts sentenced him to death, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2006.

According to the rulings, Kuma abducted the two elementary school students while en route to school on Feb. 20, 1992. He later strangled the girls in a car and dumped their bodies in a mountainous area, the courts found.