• Kyodo


The Nagoya High Court on Tuesday revoked its earlier decision to reopen the trial of a man convicted of killing five people with poisoned wine in Nabari, Mie Prefecture, in 1961, accepting an objection filed by prosecutors.

The decision was made on a petition for a retrial by Masaru Okunishi, 80, who has been on death row since 1972 after being convicted of serving poisoned wine at a gathering of 20 women, resulting in the deaths of the five, including his wife and his lover, while injuring 12 others.

The high court also revoked a decision to suspend Okunishi’s execution.

The counsel for Okunishi said they plan to file a special appeal against the decision with the Supreme Court.

“By going over both old and new evidence, it could not be concluded that the finalized ruling had a logical flaw in certifying the facts, and a retrial cannot be permitted,” ruled presiding Judge Hiroshi Kadono.

Kadono also said Okunishi’s initial confessions, which he later retracted, were detailed and trustworthy, and only he had the opportunity to poison the wine. Thus, he was the perpetrator.

It is rare for a retrial decision to be retracted for a death row inmate. Four have been granted retrials in the past and have won not-guilty verdicts despite an appeal by prosecutors in each case.

“The decision turned out to be the opposite of what I had expected. Ever since the court decided to reopen the case (last year), I had great hopes,” Okunishi said in a statement.

“I am just terribly disappointed. I am innocent, and I did not commit the crime. I will continue to fight as long as I live,” he said.

The No. 1 criminal bench at the high court decided to reopen the case and suspend his execution in April 2005, accepting the argument of his counsel that the substance detected in the wine did not match the pesticide he initially confessed to putting in it in an attempt to resolve the love triangle.

However, the prosecutors filed an objection, saying the decision was based on an incorrect evaluation of newly presented evidence. The No. 2 criminal bench at the high court heard the presentations of both sides.

Okunishi was acquitted by the Tsu District Court in 1964 for lack of evidence, but the Nagoya High Court reversed the ruling in 1969 and sentenced him to death, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 1972.

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