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The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday decided to retry a 62-year-old man who served 17 years of a life sentence until a new DNA test suggested he was innocent. Mr. Toshikazu Sugaya was arrested in December 1991 for the May 1990 kidnapping and murder of a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture. Although he retracted earlier confessions during his first trial, the Utsunomiya District Court sentenced him to life imprisonment in July 1993 on the basis of DNA test results it considered decisive evidence. The Supreme Court finalized the sentence in July 2000.

The Tokyo High Court, which had been handling Mr. Sugaya’s request for a retrial, ordered a new DNA test in December 2008. A forensic expert recommended by the prosecution and another recommended by the defense counsel carried out separate DNA tests and concluded that DNA from dried body fluid on the girl’s clothing did not match Mr. Sugaya’s. Adopting the results of the new DNA test by the former, the court concluded that “it is reasonably doubtful to recognize Mr. Sugaya as the culprit.”

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