National / Crime & Legal

Retry condemned killer of four: lawyers

1966 'Hakamada case' evidence said flawed, not backed by DNA

Kyodo

Lawyers for a man sentenced to death in a multiple-murder case from 1966 called for a retrial Monday, saying new evidence proves their client was wrongfully convicted.

Defense lawyers for Iwao Hakamada, 77, submitted a statement to the Shizuoka District Court saying DNA test results exonerate Hakamada, while prosecutors submitted a counterstatement the same day.

The former professional boxer was sentenced to hang by the district court in 1968 for murdering his employer, an executive of a miso paste maker, the executive’s wife and their two children, in a trial that became known as the “Hakamada case.” The ruling was upheld by the Tokyo High Court in 1976 and finalized by the Supreme Court in 1980.

The court will hear from Hakamada and his 80-year-old sister, Hideko, who requested the retrial, on Dec. 16, before deciding whether to reopen the case next spring at the earliest.

“We are certain that the court will decide to start the retrial,” defense lawyer Hideyo Ogawa said at a press conference.

The defense team said in its final statement that a DNA test proved a bloodstain on the attacker’s clothing was not from Hakamada, and that investigators coached two of his colleagues and later altered their testimony.

The prosecutors said in their final statement that the DNA test results were not credible given the age of the bloodstain. DNA test experts for the defense and prosecutors gave conflicting opinions.

Hakamada’s sister filed a second appeal for a retrial in 2008 in place of Hakamada, who developed a serious mental illness following an unsuccessful appeal filed in 1981. During the second appeal, over 400 pieces of evidence related to the 1966 murders were disclosed by Shizuoka prosecutors to the court and lawyers, and a fresh DNA test was conducted on the bloodstained clothing, which served as the critical evidence in finding Hakamada guilty.

Hakamada’s sister visits the Tokyo Detention House every month to see her brother. Though she has been prevented from seeing him since August 2010, she says she keeps asking prison staff about his health.

“If the court decides not to reopen the case, we will only ask again,” she said.

Statements held by prosecutors that were ordered revealed in July indicate the two colleagues of Hakamada initially said he came out of his dorm along with them to put out a fire that was set at the victims’ residence. In the trials, the pair stated they had not seen the defendant during the fire.

Coronavirus banner