Death Penalty Sought Again for Hakamata over 1966 Murder Case

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Iwao Hakamata’s sister, Hideko, speaks at a press conference after closing arguments in his retrial in Shizuoka on Wednesday.

Shizuoka, May 22 (Jiji Press) — Public prosecutors Wednesday again sought the death penalty for Iwao Hakamata, 88, in his retrial over the 1966 murder of four members of a family in the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka.

In their closing arguments on the day, the prosecution claimed “there is a lot of evidence showing that the defendant is the criminal, even excluding five pieces of clothing” alleged to have been worn by Hakamata during the murder in the city of Shimuzu.

Before requesting the capital punishment, they read out a statement of opinion from a bereaved relative calling for full re-examination of findings of that time to reveal truth.

On the other hand, the defense maintained in their final plea that Hakamata is totally innocent.

In her last opinion statement, the defendant’s elder sister, Hideko Hakamata, 91, said: “We have fought for 58 years. Please let my brother, Iwao, live as a human being for the limited life left to him.”

Now that some seven months of hearings are over, the court is set to hand down a ruling on Sept. 26.

In the retrial, a focal point was whether five clothing items discovered in a miso tank a year and two months after a miso company executive and his three family members were stabbed to death and his house was put on fire were worn by Hakamata at the time of the crime.

Also called into question was the prosecution’s allegation that the red bloodstains found on the clothes were able to keep their redness even after the clothes remained in miso for more than a year. This view provided a rationale for their conclusion that Hakamata committed the murder.

Citing experts’ examination results, the defense argued that it was “extremely unnatural” for bloodstains not to turn brown under such a circumstance, claiming they are fabricated evidence.

Hakamata’s death sentence became final following a 1980 decision by the Supreme Court to reject his appeal.

Shizuoka District Court first decided to reopen the murder case in 2014, allowing him to be released after about 48 years in detention. The retrial decision was canceled by Tokyo High Court in 2018. But the top court ordered the high court to review the decision two years later, and the retrial eventually started last October.