Hideko Hakamata, Sister of Iwao Hakamata
Katsuhiko Nishijima, Hakamata case lead attorney, Attorney at law
Japan's Death Penalty on Trial
13:00-14:00 Monday, April 19, 2021
The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with English interpretation
In 2014, the Shizuoka District Court ordered a retrial of Iwao Hakamata, a former professional boxer who had been on death row for 45 years after being convicted of the murder of a family of four. Hakamata insisted that he had been forced to sign a confession by police. DNA testing in 2008 undermined a key plank of the case when it found that bloodstains used to convict Hakamata's were not his. Given his advanced age (he is now 85) and fragile health, many people assumed that he would be freed for good but prosecutors have not abandoned attempts to return him to death row. In 2018, the Tokyo High Court reversed the request for a retrial.
Now Hakamata's supporters have been given reason to hope. On December 22nd, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court's 2018 decision, reviving the possibility of his eventual acquittal. The top court was usually critical of the High Court's earlier ruling, saying it "seriously violated justice" by not seriously reviewing the evidence for Hakamata's conviction. As the family anxiously await a decision by prosecutors and the High Court on whether to accept a retrial, they have agreed to come to the FCCJ and discuss the case and its implications for Japan's death penalty.
Japan is one of only two industrial democracies (with the United States) that retains capital punishment. The death penalty in Japan has been under fire for years for what one campaigner called its "peculiar cruelties". Inmates like Hakamata are kept in solitary confinement and forced to wait an average of more than seven years, and sometimes decades, in small cells while the legal system grinds on. They live every day believing it could be their last because of a rule that inmates cannot be told of their execution until the morning it happens.
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