JAPAN: WORLD'S 'LONGEST-SERVING' DEATH ROW INMATE GRANTED RETRIAL
March 27, 2014: A man believed to be the world's longest-serving death row inmate was granted a retrial in Japan over multiple murders in 1966, decades after doubts emerged about his guilt.
Shizuoka District Court decided to "start the retrial over the case" of Iwao Hakamada, 78, who was convicted for the grisly murder of his boss and the man's family, a court official said.
Delivering his ruling, presiding judge Hiroaki Murayama cited possible planting of evidence by investigators to win a conviction as they sought to bring closure to a crime that shocked the country.
"There is possibility that (key pieces of) evidence have been fabricated by investigative bodies," Murayama said in his decision, according to Jiji Press.
The judge also ordered Hakamada's release, saying continued confinement "goes against justice".
Hakamada is the sixth person since the end of World War II to receive a retrial after having a death sentence confirmed, and his case will bolster opponents of capital punishment.
Back in 1966, Hakamada initially denied accusations that he robbed and killed his boss, the man's wife and two children before setting their house ablaze.
But the former boxer, who worked for a bean paste maker, later confessed following what he claimed was a brutal police interrogation that included beatings.
He retracted his confession but to no avail. The supreme court confirmed his death sentence in 1980. Prosecutors and courts had used blood-stained clothes, which emerged a year after the crime and his arrest, as key evidence to convict Hakamada.
The clothes did not fit him, his supporters said. The blood stains appeared too vivid for evidence that was discovered a year after the crime. Later DNA tests found no link between Hakamada, the clothes and the blood stains, his supporters said. (Sources: Afp, 27/03/2014)