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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

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ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Japan: Former death row inmate Iwao Hakamada deserves retrial despite court ruling

Hakamada Iwao
Responding to news that Tokyo’s High Court has overruled a lower court, and denied a retrial to Hakamada Iwao, 82, who spent more than four decades on death row, Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International commented:

“Today’s ruling is a gross injustice and flies in the face of the facts. Hakamada’s conviction is based on a forced ‘confession’ and there remain serious unanswered questions over DNA evidence.

“Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied 50 years ago. Any appeal by Hakamada’s legal team should be heard without undue delay. Hakamada is elderly and has poor mental health because of his many years on death row.

“To send Hakamada back to prison would not only set the Japanese authorities against international safeguards protecting those with mental disability and the elderly from the use of the death penalty, but would be plain cruel. While his fight for justice continues, he must be allowed to remain at home on humanitarian grounds.”

Background


Hakamada Iwao was sentenced to death in 1968 and was the longest-serving death row inmate in the world. After an unfair trial, he was convicted of the murder of his employer and his employer’s family. Hakamada “confessed” after 20 days of interrogation by police. He retracted the “confession” during the trial and told the court that police had beaten and threatened him. 

He was temporarily released from prison in March 2014, when a district court granted him a retrial after new DNA evidence cast serious doubt on the reliability of his conviction.

The decision to open a retrial was also based on more than 600 pieces of evidence which the prosecutor was ordered by the court to disclose after Hakamada submitted his second request for a retrial in 2008. Some of this evidence undermined the veracity of earlier evidence. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

Source: Amnesty International, June 11, 2018


High court rejects reopening 1966 Hakamada quadruple murder case


Iwao Hakamada
TOKYO -- A Japanese high court on Monday ruled against reopening a 1966 quadruple murder case involving former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada, rejecting a lower court decision.

The 82-year-old, who was sentenced to death over the case, and his family have been seeking to clear his name, but the Tokyo High Court scrapped a 2014 decision by the Shizuoka District Court to grant him a retrial.

The high court said the lower court overvalued the method of 2012 DNA tests it based its decision on, and its suspicion that investigative authorities forged evidence lacked grounds.

The high court, however, decided to continue suspending Hakamada's death penalty and keep him free, saying it would be unreasonable not to do so before the rejection of his retrial is finalized, "given his age and living and health conditions."

"It is regrettable. We will move on to the next step," said Hakamada's sister Hideko, 85, after hearing the decision.

Hakamada, who stayed at his home in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, told reporters earlier in the day the problem lies with the police and the court. "It's all lies," he said.

Katsuhiko Nishijima, the head of Hakamada's defense team, said they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, calling the decision "truly unjust" and "unacceptable."

Hakamada was freed in March 2014 after nearly 48 years under detention by the Shizuoka District Court, which in addition to ordering the reopening of the case also suspended Hakamada's death sentence and his continued detention.

Hakamada, who was then a live-in employee at a soybean processing firm, was arrested in August 1966 on suspicion of robbery, murder and arson after the firm's senior managing director, his wife and two children were found dead with stab wounds at their burned-down house in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan.

Hakamada initially confessed to investigators before changing his plea at the trial.

The Shizuoka District Court in 1968 sentenced him to death, citing the prosecution' claim that Hakamada's blood was detected on five items of clothing found in the processing plant. The decision was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1980.

Hakamada filed his first plea for a retrial in 1981 but it was rejected by the district court in 1994, the high court in 2004 and the top court in 2008, prompting his sister to file a second plea.

In the decision on the second plea in March 2014, the district court accepted DNA test results that undermined the claim that Hakamada's blood was found on the clothing items. The court even noted that the evidence could have been fabricated by police.

Prosecutors appealed against the decision to the Tokyo High Court, casting doubt on the reliability of the DNA tests.

Hakamada's defense lawyers had urged prosecutors not to file an appeal, saying the ex-boxer suffers from diminished mental capacity due to his long years of detention.

Source: Japan Today, June 11 2018


Tokyo High Court rules against reopening 1966 quadruple murder case


DNA testing
The Tokyo High Court on Monday ruled against reopening the 1966 quadruple murder case against former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada, rejecting a lower court decision.

The defense team for Hakamada, 82, is expected to appeal the high court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

After spending nearly 48 years behind bars, most of it on death row, Hakamada was freed by the Shizuoka District Court in March 2014 after new DNA testing undermined the evidence used to convict him. The court ordered that Hakamada’s case be reopened and suspended his death sentence and detention pending a retrial.

Hakamada, who was a live-in employee at a soybean processing firm, was arrested in August 1966 on suspicion of robbery, murder and arson after the firm’s senior managing director, his wife and two children were found dead with stab wounds at their burned-down house in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Hakamada initially confessed before changing his plea at the trial.

The Shizuoka District Court in 1968 sentenced him to death, citing the prosecution’s claim that Hakamada’s blood was detected on five items of clothing found in the processing plant. The decision was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1980.

A chronology of major events related to the 1966 quadruple murder in Shizuoka Prefecture:
  • June 30, 1966 — Family of four, including two children, found murdered in ruins of soybean processing company executive’s burned house in Shizuoka.
  • August 1966 Former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada arrested on suspicion of murder-robbery.
  • September 1968 — Hakamada sentenced to death.
  • November 1980 — Supreme Court finalizes capital punishment.
  • April 1981 — Hakamada files first appeal for retrial.
  • August 1994 — Shizuoka District Court turns down appeal, prompting defense to appeal to Tokyo High Court.
  • August 2004 — Tokyo High Court turns down appeal.
  • March 2008 — Supreme Court turns down special appeal.
  • April 2008 — Hakamada’s sister Hideko files second appeal.
  • March 27, 2014 — Shizuoka District Court decides to reopen Hakamada case, Hakamada freed.
  • March 31, 2014 — Prosecutors appeal decision to reopen case.
  • June 11, 2018 — Tokyo High Court rules against reopening case.

Source: Japan Times, June 11 2018


Japan: man freed after 45 years on death row could go back to jail


Iwao Hakamada
Tokyo high court rules against 2014 decision that conviction of Iwao Hakamada was unsafe

A Japanese man who was freed in 2014 after spending 45 years on death row could be sent back to prison after a court overturned the decision to grant him a retrial.

Iwao Hakamada was sentenced to hang in 1968 for the murders two years earlier of a company president, his wife and their two children in Shizuoka prefecture, central Japan. A district court in Shizuoka freed him in 2014 and ordered a retrial, saying police may have fabricated evidence, but the Tokyo high court on Monday ruled against it.

It said the lower court had overstated the value of DNA evidence that cast doubt on the safety of his conviction, and that there were insufficient grounds to suspect that police had forged evidence.

Hakamada, an 82-year-old former professional boxer, told reporters from his home in Shizuoka that his conviction had always been unsafe. “It is all lies,” he said, according to Kyodo news.

His 85-year-old sister, Hideko, who has campaigned to prove her brother’s innocence, said the high court ruling was “regrettable,” but added that his supporters would continue the fight to clear his name.

Hakamada’s lawyers are expected to appeal to the supreme court.

The Tokyo court agreed to allow Hakamada, who is in poor health, to remain free on humanitarian grounds until a final decision has been made on his retrial.

A live-in employee at the victims’ miso paste plant, he had initially confessed to the four killings but later retracted it and insisted he was innocent throughout his two-year trial. Hakamada told the court that police had beaten and threatened him during 20 consecutive days of questioning.

At the time of his 2014 release, he was thought to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate.

Hakamada’s family had pleaded with prosecutors not to challenge the lower court decision, saying decades on death row had seriously damaged his mental and physical health.

Hiroka Shoji, east Asia researcher at Amnesty International, described Monday’s ruling as a gross injustice.

“Hakamada’s conviction is based on a forced ‘confession’ and there remain serious unanswered questions over DNA evidence,” Shoji said.

Iwao Hakamada
“Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied 50 years ago. Any appeal by Hakamada’s legal team should be heard without undue delay. He is elderly and has poor mental health because of his many years on death row.

“To send Hakamada back to prison would not only set the Japanese authorities against international safeguards protecting those with mental disability and the elderly from the use of the death penalty, but would be plain cruel.”

Campaigners against the death penalty have used Hakamada’s case to draw attention to Japan’s “secret executions”, accusing authorities of driving prisoners insane and subjecting them to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment.

Human rights groups have criticised Japan’s practice of informing death row inmates of their impending execution just hours before they are led to the gallows. Families are sometimes informed only after the hanging has taken place. An Amnesty International report said the practice causes “significant mental illness”.

Typically, condemned prisoners spend several years on death row in Japan. Hakamada’s execution has been delayed by a series of appeals against his convictions that ended unsuccessfully in the supreme court in 1980. Since then, his legal team have been pushing for a retrial.

Some prisoners have been executed while their case for a retrial is being heard.

Source: The Guardian, Justin McCurry, June 11, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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