National / Crime & Legal

Former assistant nurse set to be acquitted in retrial of 2003 Shiga hospital murder case

Kyodo

A former assistant nurse convicted of murdering a patient in 2003 is expected to be found not guilty in a retrial, her lawyers said Wednesday, after prosecutors decided not to argue against her acquittal.

Mika Nishiyama, 39, was found guilty in 2005 of killing a 72-year-old man by removing his respirator at a hospital in Shiga Prefecture. Her conviction, based in part upon a confession she later retracted, was finalized in 2007, and she finished serving a 12-year prison term in 2017.

But the Supreme Court ordered her retrial in March, upholding a lower court’s ruling that it was possible the patient had died from natural causes.

“We believe the prosecutors reversed their stance in order to allow a court to hand down an acquittal in a retrial at an early stage. We can say her acquittal is effectively certain,” Kenichi Ido, who heads Nishiyama’s defense team, said at a news conference.

“I’m glad that the retrial will end quickly,” Nishiyama said.

She added that she hopes the system will change to allow lawyers to be present during interrogations.

The prosecutors are expected to maintain their assertion of Nishiyama’s guilt, based on the evidence they presented in the past, but told the defense lawyers in a statement that they will not oppose the defense’s call for her acquittal, according to the lawyers and investigative sources.

The prosecutors also said they will leave it up to the court to decide whether Nishiyama’s confession can be used as evidence.

The former nursing assistant initially told investigators that she removed the respirator and killed the patient, but pleaded not guilty in subsequent court proceedings, claiming interrogators had caused her to make a false confession.

The prosecutors also called for her retrial at the Otsu District Court to be held by March next year, according to the defense team.

Since the retrial was ordered, the court, the lawyers and the prosecutors have held talks in preparation.

The prosecutors said in a session in April that they planned to maintain their claim of guilt, but later retracted requests to question witnesses such as a forensic doctor and said they would not seek new evidence to prove their claim, according to the defense team.

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