The Supreme Court has upheld a high court acquittal of Kazuyoshi Miura over the death of his wife in the early 1980s, it was learned Thursday.
Prosecutors have until midnight Monday to lodge a complaint against Wednesday’s ruling. Given that no complaint has ever led to a ruling being overturned, the top court has effectively finalized Miura’s acquittal in the high-profile murder case.
Miura, 55, was charged with arranging the murder of his wife, Kazumi, 28, so he could collect 163 million yen in insurance money. She was shot in Los Angeles in November 1981. There were no witnesses. She eventually slipped into a coma and died in 1982 in Japan.
Miura, who during the incident suffered a gunshot wound that was not life-threatening, and a Japanese parking lot operator were arrested in the slaying in October 1988.
The case drew intense media coverage, which Miura and critics accused of overshadowing police investigations and casting him in an unfair light as the prime suspect.
In handing down the decision, presiding Justice Toshihiro Kanatani said the prosecution’s claim that the high court acquittal had violated a precedent provided “no grounds for an appeal.”
“Even after checking the records thoroughly, we still have reasonable doubt that Miura killed his wife, and thus we can affirm the acquittal,” he said.
“It’s extremely regrettable that the prosecutors’ appeal has been rejected,” said Katsuhiko Kumazaki, chief of the trial division of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office. “We need to consider new ways to investigate and gather evidence in these types of cases.”
Miura said he was not surprised by the top court’s decision.
“I’ve been confident that nothing other than an acquittal would come,” he said. “I’m angry at the prosecutors, who, driven by their egos, challenged the appeals court ruling that objectively evaluated the facts.”
He also warned the media against irresponsible reporting, noting that the media would lose the public’s trust if they automatically link arrests to crimes or are sloppy in news-gathering and reporting. “I want the mass media to think again about their coverage of the ‘Los Angeles scandal’.”
With the case so billed by the media, police investigations proceeded as if they followed up leads from reports in newspapers, weekly magazines and other publications.
During the original trial, prosecutors produced largely circumstantial evidence to link Miura to the killing. Miura meanwhile argued that he and his wife were assaulted by a burglar.
The parking-lot operator, who the prosecutors said carried out the shooting after conspiring with Miura, pleaded not guilty, saying he was not at the scene of the crime.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Miura to life in prison for murder in 1994 on the grounds that he orchestrated the shooting to cash in on a life insurance policy taken out on his wife. In that ruling, the court said the shooter was unknown and the charges against the parking lot operator were dropped.
The Tokyo High Court overturned that verdict in July 1998, acquitting Miura of masterminding the 1981 shooting to collect 163 million yen in insurance.
“The lower court ruling that acknowledged a conspiracy with an unknown person is a clear violation of rules and directly puts the defendant at a disadvantage,” the appeals court said in acquitting Miura.
In September 1998, however, Miura was given a six-year prison term when the Supreme Court found him guilty in a separate injurious assault on his wife at a Los Angeles hotel in August 1981.
Miura and a former actress were first arrested in September 1985 in connection with the assault, in which the actress allegedly struck his wife on the head with what was believed to have been a hammer. She suffered injuries requiring about a week to heal.
Miura’s prison term for the hammer assault ended in January 2001.
The Supreme Court’s ruling also included a sentence for Miura of one year in prison, suspended for three years, for defrauding an insurance company in an unrelated case.
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