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Japanese high court rejects appeal for retrial over 1979 murder case

Kyodo

A branch of the Fukuoka High Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal for retrial filed by a woman who served a 10-year prison term for the 1979 murder of her brother-in-law.

Ayako Haraguchi, 87, has consistently maintained that she did not kill Kunio Nakamura, whose body was found in Osaki, Kagoshima Prefecture.

However, confessions by three of Haraguchi’s relatives, considered accomplices, were critical in the rejection of her two attempts seeking a retrial.

The decision by the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court came after the Kagoshima District Court dismissed a request in March 2013, saying it was difficult to conclude that the three relatives were coerced by investigators into making false confessions.

In her first attempt seeking a retrial, the district court decided to reopen the case in 2002, but the decision was overturned by the high court branch in 2004. The case then went to the Supreme Court, which backed the high court’s judgment in 2006.

In an attempt to undermine the credibility of the three relatives’ statements, Haraguchi’s lawyers, during the most recent appeal hearing, referred to a forensic report casting doubt on the court’s findings that the victim was strangled with a towel.

It also submitted a psychologist’s written opinion stating that the confessions were most likely “not based on their personal experiences.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, disclosed 213 new items of evidence to the defense during the appeal hearing, including notes taken during the early stages of the investigation.

Haraguchi was given a 10-year prison term in 1980 by the district court and fought through to the Supreme Court until her appeal was turned down. She was released from prison in 1990.

The three relatives — Nakamura’s two brothers and a nephew — were also sentenced to prison terms of up to eight years. The eldest brother was Haraguchi’s husband at the time.