Court airs taped grilling of Sugaya

'92 interrogation into slayings led to 'confession'

UTSUNOMIYA, Tochigi Pref. (Kyodo) Audiotapes of a prosecutor questioning Toshikazu Sugaya were played Thursday during his retrial at the Utsunomiya District Court, prompting him to leave the courtroom because he felt sick.

Sugaya, 63, sentenced to life in prison for the 1990 abduction-murder of a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, was released last June after serving 17 years. Fresh evidence to prove his innocence arose from new DNA tests and he is expected to be acquitted following the retrial.

His lawyers say that playing the recordings of the interrogation process will show how Sugaya was forced to make a false confession and how he was victimized by an inappropriate investigation and court trials.

After his arrest in 1991, Sugaya was questioned not only about the 1990 slaying but also about the murder of two other girls in Ashikaga, in 1979 and 1984. With his expected acquittal in the 1990 killing, all three slayings remain unsolved.

On a tape recorded Jan. 28, 1992, the prosecutor questioned Sugaya about the 1984 case, in which a 5-year-old girl was slain, asking him, “Is it really true?” and Sugaya responded, “I took (the girl on my bicycle),” suggesting he was involved in the murder.

But Sugaya eventually denied involvement after the prosecutor said, “Don’t glance down. Is it a murder you committed or not?” and he responded, “Actually, I didn’t do it.”

On the 1990 case for which he was convicted, the prosecutor said, “Were you or weren’t you involved in this case as well? I don’t want you to be sly,” at which Sugaya fell silent. Then the prosecutor asked, “So it’s not wrong (to say) that you did it.” Sugaya responded that it’s not wrong. But when asked again “Did you do it?” Sugaya didn’t answer.

The prosecutor also told Sugaya, “We are recording (this interrogation), but you don’t have to pay any mind to that.”

While the tape was being played, Sugaya left the court, saying he felt sick.

The former prosecutor will testify Friday afternoon.

Sugaya’s lawyers have argued it is necessary to disclose the audio recordings to clarify why he made the false confessions. Prosecutors said it isn’t necessary because Sugaya will be acquitted anyway.

The move will affect the debate about introducing full video and audio recordings of all interrogations to prevent wrongful convictions.