The decision last week by a Kagoshima court granting a retrial to a 90-year-old woman convicted of murdering her brother-in-law in 1979 points yet again to the possibility of a wrongful conviction. The case at hand lacks hard evidence and was built mainly on confessions that might have been guided by investigators and testimony whose credibility is now thrown into doubt. It was in fact the second court decision to order the woman's retrial — a 2002 decision by the same court was reversed by a higher court following an appeal by prosecutors. The prosecutors shouldn't try to block the retrial this time. Investigation authorities and the judiciary instead need to look into why the charges and the conviction against her were allowed to stand for such a long time despite all the doubts cited in the latest court decision.

Ayako Haraguchi, who was 52 when she was arrested, served 10 years behind bars after her guilty verdict was finalized in 1981. During police investigations and court proceedings, Haraguchi consistently denied killing Kunio Nakamura in Osaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, in 1979, and filed her first retrial plea in 1995. The Kagoshima District Court ordered a retrial in 2002, saying that the credibility of testimony by confessed accomplices that implicated her needed to be re-examined because they appeared to contradict the conditions of the victim's body. That decision was overturned, however, by a higher court two years later upon the appeal by prosecutors. Her second attempt for a retrial was also rejected. The decision last Wednesday by the Kagoshima District Court ordering a retrial was in response to her third plea.

In recent years, the rapid advance in DNA analysis technology served as a crucial factor in court decisions for retrials in the 1997 murder of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. employee, which led to the 2012 acquittal of Nepalese man who was serving a life term, and the 1966 murder of a family of four in Shimizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in which Iwao Hakamada was released in 2014 after 48 years in prison.