Kagoshima man freed after wrongful rape conviction; police DNA tests called into question


A ruling by the Fukuoka High Court acquitting a man of the rape of a teenage girl in 2012 was finalized Wednesday after prosecutors did not appeal it.

The court lambasted a DNA laboratory involved in the case, saying it was possible that it succumbed to police pressure in reporting a false match.

Kengo Iwamoto, 23, from the city of Kagoshima, was sentenced to four years in jail by the Kagoshima District Court in 2014, but the Fukuoka High Court’s Miyazaki branch overturned that ruling this month, citing a fresh examination of DNA.

The high court ruling casts into question the reliability of DNA tests conducted on behalf of police. It said laboratory staff who worked on this case either had “extremely poor” analysis skills or sought to “hide” an outcome that contradicted the police’s position on the case.

The Fukuoka High Public Prosecutor’s Office said it does not fully agree with the ruling, but that it “cannot find reasons to appeal.”

Iwamoto was indicted for the alleged assault of a 17-year-old girl in an entertainment district in Kagoshima in October 2012.

The district court convicted him based on testimony by the victim and DNA from saliva found on her breast.

Semen taken from the victim was said to be “too small for analysis.”

But further analysis of the semen, conducted during the appeal trial at the request of the man’s defense counsel, showed it was not defendant’s DNA.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Kagoshima, Iwamoto said he was overjoyed to be free but called for greater clarity in the conduct of criminal investigations.

“In order to prevent false charges, all cases should be made visible,” he said.

“Investigators should not trust everything victims say and should have doubts when they notice contradictions.”

He called on investigators to obtain evidence supporting whatever claims victims may make.