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A 92-year-old woman’s bid for a retrial over a 1979 murder in Osaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, for which she was convicted and spent 10 years in prison, was quashed once again as the Supreme Court last week overturned decisions by lower courts to reopen the case. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the retrial plea by Ayako Haraguchi, which had been approved three times by lower courts, raises questions of whether it is consistent with the top court’s past decision that a retrial can be granted when reasonable doubt emerges over a conviction.

Haraguchi was arrested along with three others, including her husband, for allegedly colluding to strangle her brother-in-law. While Haraguchi consistently denied the charges throughout the investigations and in court, the three others confessed to killing him and dumping his body. A 10-year prison term for Haraguchi in 1980 was finalized by the Supreme Court a year later. After serving the sentence, she filed a plea for a retrial in 1995. But while the Kagoshima District Court granted her a retrial in 2002, the decision was overturned by the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court in 2004. After the second attempt failed, she filed a third retrial plea in 2015, and the district court and the high court branch decided to reopen the trial. The prosecutors then appealed to the Supreme Court.

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