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The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday nullified the confession of a Filipino woman accused of killing her live-in boyfriend in 1997, saying it was obtained through illegal police action, but nevertheless upheld her prison sentence for murder.

The court upheld the eight-year sentence handed down to Manalili Villanueva Rosal, 30, by the Chiba District Court in 2000 for the fatal stabbing of Hideyuki Takahashi, 30, with a kitchen knife at their apartment in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, in November 1997.

The high court said Wednesday that police confined and questioned Rosal without a warrant in locations that include a hotel room and a police dormitory until, after 10 days, she confessed. After she was turned over to prosecutors, she denied committing the crime.

The district court said in September 2000 that the methods of the investigation “must be said to be illegal,” yet Rosal was convicted based on her initial confession.

On Wednesday, however, high court Judge Takeo Nakanishi said, “The illegality of the investigation is grave, and the legitimacy of the confession should be denied.”

Yet, the court gave her the same sentence based on circumstantial evidence.

Nakanishi said Rosal bears grave criminal responsibility for the crime, even though the court was unable to establish a motive.

“It is still unknown why the defendant committed the crime, what was happening before it took place and how the defendant came to form her intention to kill,” the judge said.

“But it is highly likely that Rosal stabbed Takahashi during a quarrel,” the judge said.

The court said that it was only Rosal who had access to the room and had no alibi at the time he was killed.

While the judge was reading the sentence, Rosal faced him, grasping her handkerchief in her hands. When the judge described the circumstances of the victim’s death, she wiped tears from her eyes.

Rosal stabbed Takahashi several times from behind on the night of Nov. 9, 1997, during a quarrel that erupted when he tried to stop her from leaving their apartment to visit a nearby hospital where her 4-year-old daughter was being treated for asthma, the high court said.

Rosal was separated from her Japanese husband, the father of her daughter, and was living with Takahashi at the time of the slaying.

Rosal’s lawyers said Wednesday’s ruling was “an unreasonable guess” by the court in lieu of any concrete evidence, and they said they plan to bring the case before the Supreme Court.

But they said it was a still historic judicial landmark for a court to deny a defendant’s confession as evidence because it was obtained through an illegal investigation.

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