Case Retrial for Iwao Hakamata Moves Supporters to Tears

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hideko Hakamata, sister of Iwao Hakamata, is interviewed Monday in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, after the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office announced that it would not file a special appeal.

After 57 years, the road to a retrial has finally opened up for Iwao Hakamata, 87, whose death sentence had been finalized in the case of a murder of four family members in Shizuoka Prefecture in July 1966. With his acquittal at a retrial now widely expected, those who believe in his innocence have been shedding tears of joy.

On Monday, the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office announced that it would not file a special appeal with the Supreme Court, accepting the Tokyo High Court’s decision on March 13 to grant a retrial to Hakamata.

In the past, four death penalty cases have been retried, and in each case the defendant was acquitted. Hakamata could soon join their ranks to make five such acquittals in total.

No more worries

“All the fatigue I’ve been feeling has gone away now,” Hakamata’s sister, Hideko, 90, said Monday evening when interviewed by reporters in front of her house in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, after the prosecutors announced they would forgo a special appeal. “I am so happy. All I can say is thank you.”

Prior to the interview, she told her brother, who was sitting on the sofa at home: “It went just as you said. You don’t have to worry anymore.”

Hakamata, who has developed prison psychosis as a result of his years behind bars, showed no change in expression, but Hideko said: “I think he understands. I think he thinks it’s obvious things would turn out this way.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming retrial at the Shizuoka District Court, Hideko said: “The trial is not over yet. Now is the crucial moment. I hope more than anything that he will no longer be a death-row inmate.”

Hakamata was arrested by the Shizuoka prefectural police two months after the murders, and his death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in December 1980. His first request for a retrial, filed in 1981, took 27 years to be heard, but was not granted. It will soon be 15 year since his second request for a retrial was filed in 2008.

Hakamata was detained for 48 years from the time of his arrest until his release in 2014.

“I want to exonerate Hakamata as soon as possible,” said an emotional Hideyo Ogawa, 70, who heads the defense, at a press conference.

Meanwhile, stolid-looking senior prosecutors at a special press conference held Monday evening in Tokyo avoided detailed explanations of the case.

Asked about their reasons for not filing a special appeal and whether they will try to establish Hakamata’s guilt at the retrial, Hiroshi Yamamoto, deputy chief prosecutor of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, repeatedly said they would refrain from comment or could not offer any details.

The high court’s decision on March 13 also touched on the possibility that investigative authorities may have fabricated evidence.

Regarding the office’s reaction to this point and whether an apology would be made to Hakamata, Yamamoto said, “I will refrain from giving details at this stage, as we will deal with the issue at the retrial.”