Decision to grant retrial shows justice system can make mistakes
In antiquity, bizarre trials were not uncommon around the world. In Europe, it was believed that the bodies of murder victims would bleed if the perpetrators approached them.
Thus, whenever there was an unsolved murder case in a certain region of Europe, all residents were rounded up and made to touch the corpse.
This was hardly how criminal justice is meant to be enforced, but “Zoku Hoso Yawa,” a book of anecdotal accounts from Iwanami Shoten Publishers, cites an old case in which a corpse actually bled and an individual was pronounced guilty.
Times have since changed, but what remains unchanged to this day is the likelihood of mere mortals making mistakes when they sit in judgment of their fellow beings.
On June 7, the Tokyo High Court granted a retrial to a 45-year-old Nepalese man convicted of murdering a woman in 1997 who worked for Tokyo Electric Power Co. The man was handed a life sentence.
The decision to grant him a retrial is much-awaited good news for the man, who has pleaded his innocence all these years, as well as for his family and supporters.
He was originally acquitted by the Tokyo District Court, but the appellate court reversed the verdict and the ruling became final.
The Tokyo High Court noted in its latest decision that the results of a new DNA test “serve as new, definitive proof of his innocence.” The court also ruled in favor of his immediate release.
I was reminded of Takeo Nishi, who was executed in 1975 for his role in a Fukuoka murder case. Nishi always vigorously claimed he was innocent. He wrote this haiku while on death row: “I want to scream/ Until the full moon cracks/ In the frigid winter sky.”
The Nepalese man was not on death row, but I believe he could fully relate to Nishi’s feelings.
But even though a new path has finally opened up for him, prosecutors are set to block it. They have filed an objection with the court, declaring they “could not possibly accept the court’s decision.” Therefore, deliberations will continue under a different team of judges.
A former senior official of the Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo insisted, “We could never have made a mistake.”
This is a truly scary statement that suggests that the nation’s law enforcement authorities could overlook the truth and falsely accuse people of crimes they did not commit.
All law enforcement officers must have self-confidence that is backed by a healthy humility.
The Asahi Shimbun AJW
08 June 2012