National / Crime & Legal

Kumamoto man convicted of murder may be acquitted

JIJI

An 85-year-old man who was imprisoned for a 1985 murder in Kumamoto Prefecture is expected to win an acquittal in a retrial of his case.

In a hearing at the Kumamoto District Court on Friday, the defense proclaimed the innocence of Koki Miyata, while the prosecution refrained from pressing the case to prevent his guilty status from being overturned.

The court is expected to hand down a not-guilty ruling on the murder charge against Miyata in a hearing scheduled for March 28.

Earlier, the prosecution had presented some 200 pieces of evidence it claimed proved Miyata’s intentions in the murder case. But presiding Judge Yoshihisa Mizokuni rejected some 150 of them, including a recording of a confession by Miyata.

The prosecution said in its final statement that it would not make new claims involving the murder charge. The defense said that it wanted the court to rule in Miyata’s favor and declare him not guilty of the crime.

The murder occurred in the then town of Matsubase, which is now part of the city of Uki, in January 1985. During the investigation into the case, Miyata said he had committed the crime using a knife wrapped in a cloth that he later burned.

Although he later changed his statement and denied the murder charge in the first trial, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison in December 1986.

The Supreme Court finalized the sentence in January 1990.

In 1997, it came to light that the cloth believed to have been burned had been kept by Kumamoto prosecutors.

In 2012, an adult guardian of Miyata filed a petition for a retrial. In 2016, the district court granted the petition, partially based on the inconsistency between the shape of the knife blade and the wounds on the victim, rejecting the credibility of Miyata’s confession.

After the Fukuoka High Court upheld the district court’s decision in November 2017, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the prosecution against the retrial in October 2018.

In 1999, Miyata was paroled. He has been in a nursing care facility since 2015.

He did not appear at Friday’s hearing as it is difficult for him to communicate with others due to repeated strokes.

On Friday, the prosecution demanded a two-year prison sentence against Miyata for other charges, for which he had been already found guilty, including possession of a gun. The defense asked for probation.