FUKUOKA – Prosecutors on Monday appealed a high court ruling that an 84-year-old man who served a prison term for a 1985 murder committed in Kumamoto Prefecture be retried.
Upholding a lower court decision, the Fukuoka High Court said Wednesday new evidence presented by the defense team cast doubt on the conviction of Koki Miyata, who initially admitted to investigators that he killed his acquaintance but later said in court his confession was untrue.
The Fukuoka High Public Prosecutor’s Office argued in their appeal that evidence deemed new by the defense team is not definitive enough to warrant a not-guilty verdict, suggesting that it does not satisfy conditions required to reopen the case.
Miyata’s lawyer expressed strong disappointment over the latest development, saying at a press conference in the city of Kumamoto, “The path toward retrial has become longer.”
Miyata was originally sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1986 and the ruling was finalized by the Supreme Court four years later. Miyata, a dementia sufferer, has lived in a nursing facility since his release on parole in 1999.
The process to seek a retrial started in 2012, with Miyata’s defense team submitting to the Kumamoto District Court new expert evidence they claim showed the victim’s scars did not match the shape of the knife believed to have been used in the attack.
The district court decided in June last year to retry Miyata, saying “doubts have been raised” over the credibility of his initial confessions.
The high court upheld the lower court ruling on Wednesday, dismissing the appeal by prosecutors.
The victim, Matao Okamura, 59, was found dead at his home in the town of Matsubase, Kumamoto Prefecture, in January 1985. Miyata, who was arrested weeks later, was a companion of Okamura, with the pair playing shogi, a board game often described as Japanese chess, together.
In retrial petitions in serious cases over recent years, there has only been one other case in which prosecutors raised objections against both district and high court decisions to reopen a case — a 1967 robbery and murder case in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Two men were arrested and sentenced to life in prison in the case finalized in 1978. But a request for a retrial was filed and the top court decided to retry them, eventually seeing the men acquitted in 2011.
Appealing a high court decision, known as “special appeal,” is deemed a high hurdle as it can be filed only on grounds of a constitutional violation or a conflict with judicial precedent.
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