https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/28/national/crime-legal/39-years-13-year-jail-term-85-year-old-finally-exonerated-kumamoto-murder-retrial/

“In a retrial held decades after his conviction, a court on Thursday acquitted an 85-year-old man of a 1985 murder in Kumamoto Prefecture… “‘There is no evidence that shows the defendant was the culprit and the court cannot accept he committed the murder,’ said presiding Judge Yoshihisa Mizokuni in handing down the ruling.”

Skepticism is a core part of the criminal / judicial process. The fact that cases can be appealed and the fact that retrials exist indicates that no judgements are absolute. However, in the Japanese justice system people charged with a crime are convicted over 99% of the time which is extremely high. One way to view this is that Japanese police and prosecutors are extremely careful and only prosecute cases where there is overwhelming evidence. Others look at the Japanese justice system from a more negative viewpoint; they say the system is unfair and is biased towards the police and prosecutors and false confessions signed under duress are a significant problem. Retrials are also extremely rare in Japan and critics argue that there isn’t enough skepticism about some criminal convictions in Japan.

In the case of Koki Miyata the judge quoted in the Japan Times article says “There is no evidence that shows the defendant was the culprit and the court cannot accept he committed the murder.” If there is “no evidence” why weren’t the original police, prosecutors, and judge more skeptical? Was there more pressure to solve the case when the people involved should have been more focused on finding the actual murderer?


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