• Kyodo

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The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday upheld a life sentence handed to a man by a lower court over the 2017 murder of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl, rejecting the defense’s claim that DNA evidence was collected through illegal means.

The court rejected an appeal by Yasumasa Shibuya, the 49-year-old former head of a parents group at Mutsumi Daini Elementary School in the city of Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, finding that evidence collected and used to convict him of the murder of Le Thi Nhat Linh, who was a third-grader at the school, was admissible.

Presiding Judge Masahiro Hiraki said investigators “illegally confiscated” the DNA evidence without a search warrant and criticized them for being “lazy.”

But he said the evidence was still admissible as the illegitimacy was not so significant and the need to obtain a sample of Shibuya’s DNA was necessary. There was no violation of third-party rights as a result of collecting the sample, the judge added.

The high court also rejected an appeal by prosecutors, who sought the death penalty for Shibuya, saying the murder was not premeditated.

According to the Chiba District Court ruling in July 2018, Shibuya abducted Linh with his vehicle while she was on her way to school on March 24, 2017, then went on to sexually assault and strangle her before abandoning her body near a drainage ditch in the city of Abiko two days later.

The district court sentenced Shibuya to life in prison on the basis that DNA matching his was found on the victim’s body, while the DNA of blood in his vehicle matched the girl’s.

But at a trial last November, the defense team argued cigarette butts used for DNA profiling should be excluded from the evidence as they were obtained without a search warrant. They asked that the sentence be quashed and Shibuya acquitted.

Prosecutors countered that the investigation method was legal as the cigarette butts had been discarded and were found among the defendant’s garbage at an unlocked collection site by the road.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no issue with police collecting garbage from a collection point on a public road as the owner had abandoned possession of it.

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