FUKUOKA – A high court on Wednesday upheld a lower court decision to retry an 84-year-old man who served prison time for fatally stabbing an acquaintance in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1985.
Rejecting an appeal by prosecutors, the Fukuoka High Court, presided over by Judge Masataka Yamaguchi, said that new evidence presented by the defense team “greatly eroded the credibility of confessions in the investigation process and raised reasonable doubts” over the conviction of Koki Miyata.
The high court ruling followed the Kumamoto District Court’s decision in June last year that granted Miyata a retrial due to doubts over the credibility of his confessions.
Miyata initially confessed to investigators that he killed the 59-year-old Matao Okamura, a fellow shogi player, but later denied the charge during court proceedings, saying earlier confessions were not true.
But the district court sentenced him to 13 years in prison in 1986 and the ruling was finalized by the Supreme Court four years later. After being released on parole in 1999, he is now living in a nursing facility.
A lawyer serving as his guardian filed a petition for a retrial with the district court in March 2012 as Miyata has shown symptoms of dementia.
According to the top court’s ruling, Miyata stabbed the acquaintance with a knife at the latter’s home in what was then known as the town of Matsubase, Kumamoto Prefecture, in the early hours of Jan. 6, 1985.
Before the stabbing incident, Miyata had quarreled with the man while having a meal at the acquaintance’s home, according to court documents. Prosecutors alleged Miyata went home but returned and stabbed Okamura in the neck and face.
In June of last year, the district court said that doubts had been raised over the weapon used in the attack, especially after Miyata’s defense team submitted a strip of cloth that Miyata had initially stated was wrapped around the knife and burned by him afterward.
The team also presented expert analysis that showed that the victim’s scars did not match the shape of the knife believed to have been used in the crime.
Prosecutors claimed Miyata wrapped a separate cloth around the knife and the difference in the shape of the scars and the knife was within the margin of error.