National / Crime & Legal

Court rejects appeal for retrial over 1961 wine poisoning case

Kyodo

The Nagoya High Court on Friday rejected a retrial bid by an 88-year-old man on death row for the 1961 poisoning murders of five women.

The three-judge panel led by Nobuyuki Kiguchi turned down the eighth petition for a retrial by Masaru Okunishi, who was sentenced to death in 1972. The judges said the evidence presented by Okunishi’s lawyers was not new or sufficient to justify a retrial.

Okunishi’s chief attorney, Izumi Suzuki, expressed indignation at the decision, saying the defense will file a special appeal with the Supreme Court.

The high-profile case involves the poisoning of 17 people in March 1961 at a community meeting in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. Five women, including Okunishi’s wife, died and the 12 others fell sick after drinking wine laced with poison.

Okunishi initially told investigators he had put an agricultural chemical into the wine but retracted his confession before he was indicted.

The Tsu District Court acquitted Okunishi in 1964 for lack of evidence, but the Nagoya High Court handed him the death sentence in 1969, a ruling finalized by the Supreme Court in 1972.

Okunishi repeatedly petitioned for a retrial in the succeeding years. In 2005, the Nagoya High Court decided to reopen the case after his seventh petition. It canceled the decision the following year in response to objections from prosecutors.

Okunishi, who was moved to a hospital outside the prison due to pneumonia in May 2012, was taken to a medical prison in Hachioji, west Tokyo, that June.

He has been listed in serious condition twice and remains bedridden on a respirator, according to his lawyers.

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