OSAKA — A group of 221 lawyers has formed a coalition to support a former nursery school teacher who was twice acquitted of murdering one of her pupils in 1974 but has not been freed from the case because prosecutors again have appealed to a higher court.
The number of lawyers who support Etsuko Yamada, 46, is expected to grow, some of them said. The group includes Kohei Nakabo, former head of the Japan Bar Association.
Many of the lawyers have joined the group in response to a request from those who originally represented Yamada and who claim that prosecutors have violated Yamada’s rights by continuing the case.
For the second time in the case, which has lasted for more than two decades, the Kobe District Court on March 24 acquitted Yamada of murdering a 12-year-old boy in March 1974 at Kabutoyama Gakuen, a facility for children with mental disabilities in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
The Kobe court first found her not guilty in October 1985. After prosecutors appealed the decision, the Osaka High Court in March 1990 sent the case back to the district court, prompting Yamada to file an appeal with the Supreme Court, which upheld the high court’s ruling in 1992.
On March 17, 1974, a 12-year-old girl disappeared at the school, and two days later, a 12-year-old boy at the school vanished. The two missing children were found later that day drowned in a septic tank on the school grounds.
Yamada, then a nursery teacher at the now-closed school, was arrested in April of that year. The Kobe District Public Prosecutor’s Office released her 21 days later, pending a decision on whether to indict her.
Prosecutors decided in September 1975 not to indict her, citing insufficient evidence. However, prosecutors served a second warrant in February 1978, saying they had new evidence in the form of eyewitness accounts by five former Kabutoyama Gakuen pupils. The students said they saw Yamada walking with the boy.
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