The Tokyo High Court decided on March 13 to grant a retrial to former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada who was sentenced to death over a 1966 quadruple murder case in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, and who spent about 48 years behind bars before new evidence led to his release.
The court’s decision on the retrial of Hakamada, who turned 87 on March 10, came after the court brushed aside the immediate appeal on the part of prosecutors.
The court said it ‘’cannot possibly identify Mr. Hakamada as the culprit,’’ citing unreliability of the main evidence — five pieces of clothing he was believed to have worn during the incident — that was used in finalizing his death sentence.
Hakamada himself had been released from the Tokyo Detention House in March 2014 under a Shizuoka district court ruling. But he is still stigmatized as a death-row inmate.
Shosei Nitta, head of Japan Pro Boxing Association’s committee to call for ‘’Free Hakamada’’ movement, said, ‘’I have to take off my hat to Mr. Hakamada’s sister Ms. Hideko, 90, for her 57-year struggle to free his brother. We in the boxing world has long rendered assistance to the movement. I heaved a sigh of relief for now. We will see to it that the prosecutors will not resort to special appeal against the decision.’’
In this connection, the committee has already launched a twitter throughout the world. https://twitter.com/freehakamada
It plans to benefit from Diet members and the World Boxing Council, which was cooperative in the movement so that an immediate reopening of the case can be achieved.
According to the then police, Hakamada stabbed to death four family members at a soybean paste shop on June 30, 1966 in the prefecture’s Shimizu Ward in an attempt to steal money, and then set fire to the shop after pouring gasoline on the bodies.
The main focal point between the defense and prosecution was the color of the blood-soaked five items of clothing, believed to be those of Hakamada as they were found in a miso tank a little more than a year after the murder case.
When they were found, the redness of the bloodstain was seen. But the defense argued about the color, saying it is impossible for those clothes to maintain redness as long as more than a year in the tank. They bloodstain should turn black.
The defense said it had been fabricated by a third party shortly before the clothes were found, while the prosecution side maintained redness can be retained based on its own experiments.