Two fresh DNA tests ordered by the Tokyo High Court, in a reversal of an earlier finding, showed that a sample taken from an inmate serving life for the 1990 murder of a 4-year-old girl in Tochigi Prefecture did not match body fluid found on the victim’s clothing, investigative sources have said.
The new finding came to light Monday after the DNA tests were conducted by scientists recruited on behalf of both Toshikazu Sugaya, 62, who was convicted in 2000 of killing the girl, and prosecutors.
The high court ordered the latest DNA tests in December, acting on an appeal Sugaya filed immediately after his request for retrial was rejected by a district court in Tochigi Prefecture in February 2008.
Sugaya was arrested in December 1991 on suspicion of kidnapping and killing the girl at a river in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, in May 1990. Initially, he confessed to killing her but later denied the allegation.
An initial DNA test conducted just after the murder matched Sugaya’s DNA type with the body fluid found on the girl’s clothing.
Based on this evidence, the Supreme Court upheld his murder conviction. His life sentence was finalized in July 2000, marking the first time the credibility of a DNA test was certified in Japan.
The latest finding is expected to open the door for a retrial.
The scientists from both camps are expected to submit the finding to the Tokyo High Court possibly by the end of this month, the sources said.
Sugaya’s lawyer, Hiroshi Sato, said he would not comment until he receives official notification from the court.
He said his client’s case marks the first time an initial DNA finding has been re-examined for a retrial.
The accuracy of DNA testing has significantly improved since it was introduced to criminal investigations in Japan in 1989. The probability of two people having a complete DNA match using the latest technology is one in 4.7 trillion. It was one to two in 1,000 under the method employed for Sugaya’s initial DNA test.
Questioning the credibility of the initial DNA finding, Sugaya’s lawyer has separately conducted a DNA test using Sugaya’s hair and submitted a result saying the DNA type of the body fluid found on the girl’s clothing failed to match that of Sugaya’s. But the Supreme Court at that time did not take up the finding.
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