The retrial granted to an Osaka couple jailed for 20 years over a 1995 arson and murder has again shown that investigation authorities' reliance on confessions rather than hard evidence can lead to false charges and wrongful convictions. It is now likely that the pair, who were released from prison this week, will be formally acquitted of the crime in the retrial process. Relevant authorities should not only get to the bottom of the crime itself but also examine why the two had been convicted despite doubts about their guilt that should have been explored in the first place.
Keiko Aoki, 51, and Tatsuhiro Boku, 49, her common-law husband, were arrested in September 1995 on suspicion of setting fire two months earlier to Aoki's house in Osaka, and killing the woman's 11-year-old daughter, who was taking a bath, to collect ¥15 million from a life insurance policy taken out on the girl.
Although they both were said to have confessed to the allegations at one point during questioning by police officers and prosecutors, the pair insisted on their innocence throughout their trials. But the Osaka District Court sentenced them to life imprisonment in 1999, a decision upheld by the Osaka High Court in 2004 and finalized by the Supreme Court two years later.