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OSAKA — The Osaka High Public Prosecutor’s Office formally decided Friday not to appeal the case of a former nursery school teacher acquitted three times of murdering a boy in her care in 1974.

The trial had gone on for an unprecedented 21 years by the time 40-year-old Etsuko Yamada was acquitted for the third time Sept. 29 by the Osaka High Court.

Prosecutors had come under mounting pressure not to appeal after the latest ruling, judicial sources said, because of the difficulties involved in taking the matter to the Supreme Court, considering the fact that the initial indictment was handed down 21 years ago.

The high court upheld a lower court ruling that Yamada was not guilty of murdering a 12-year-old pupil in March 1974 at Kabutoyama Gakuen, a now-defunct facility for mentally disabled children in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

The boy, along with a 12-year-old girl, were found dead in a septic tank on the school grounds.

The high court judge said Yamada’s initial confession was unreliable and that it was hard to imagine any normal person coming up with the motive for the murder that the prosecutors put forward.

The defendant had for years claimed that her confession was not valid because it was made under pressure.

Prosecutors said Yamada killed the boy because she wanted to cover up responsibility for the fatal accident in which the girl had fallen into the septic tank two days earlier.

Five former pupils said they saw Yamada walking with the boy the night he disappeared, but four of the five accounts were made more than three years after the incident occurred.

The high court judge said he could not trust the testimonies because the children may have been influenced by investigators.

Prosecutors had asked for a 13-year prison term for Yamada, who spent 21 years fighting in court to clear her name.

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