• Kyodo News


The Supreme Court said Tuesday it has turned down a retrial plea filed by a former professional boxer, on death row since being convicted of the 1966 murder of a family of four in Shimizu, now part of the city of Shizuoka.

In a decision dated Monday, the top court’s Second Petty Bench rejected an appeal by Iwao Hakamada, 72, against a 2004 Tokyo High Court ruling that dismissed his retrial plea.

Justice Isao Imai, the presiding judge in the case, said in the decision that new evidence presented by Hakamada’s counsel offered no grounds for acquittal. “Combined with the previously available evidence, no reasonable doubt has been found with the already-established decision,” he said.

Hakamada was arrested in August 1966 as a suspect in the murder two months earlier of an executive of a miso company, his wife and their daughter and son. The family’s home was set on fire and about ¥200,000 in cash was stolen. Hakamada worked for the miso maker at the time.

He confessed to the crime during the investigation but pleaded innocent in court.

Hakamada was sentenced to death in 1968 by the Shizuoka District Court, a decision upheld later by the Tokyo High Court and then by the Supreme Court.

Hakamada filed a request for a retrial in 1981. But the Shizuoka District Court rejected it in 1994, a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in 2004.

Norimichi Kumamoto, 70, a former district court judge involved in sentencing Hakamada to death, said last year he thought the boxer was not guilty at the time of the trial but was unable to convince the other two judges of his innocence.

In the initial trial, prosecutors submitted as evidence several clothing items, including trousers stained with blood apparently from one of the victims. They argued that the pants, which were found in a tank at the factory, had been worn by Hakamada at the time of the crime and deemed them key incriminating evidence.

In the retrial plea, Hakamada’s counsel claimed none of the clothing belonged to the defendant, including the trousers, which they said were too small for him.

However, the Supreme Court dismissed this argument, saying the trousers “shrank” after being kept hidden inside the miso tank for a long period.

“I have worked (for the retrial) with the strong backing of many supporters. The (Supreme Court) decision was extremely regrettable,” Hakamada’s sister, Hideko, 75, told a news conference.

She said she planned to visit the Tokyo Detention House on April 3 for a meeting with Hakamada. “I want to tell him to take care of himself and live as long as he can,” she said.

Lawyer Hideyo Ogawa, who accompanied her at the news conference, denounced the top court rejection as an “easy decision handed down without much thought to the new evidence.” Ogawa said it is “regrettable the 27 years of proceedings on the retrial plea should end this way.”

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