Japan | Hakamada case underscores folly of maintaining death penalty

The Tokyo High Court’s decision on March 13 to grant a retrial for an 87-year-old man who spent decades on death row strongly shows that he was wrongly convicted. The retrial should be held immediately to provide a legal remedy for Iwao Hakamada. In granting the retrial in the high-profile case, the high court said reasonable doubt has arisen on the guilt of Hakamada. He was arrested on suspicion of murder in August 1966, two months after an executive of a miso-producing company and three of his family members were killed in what is now Shizuoka. Hakamada, who had worked at the miso company, spent most of his adult life in detention. His latest request for a retrial was filed 15 years ago.

California Sought the Death Penalty: 38 Years Later, the Defendant is Exonerated

In a case that demonstrates the risks inherent in the death penalty, Maurice Hastings was found “factually innocent” in Los Angeles of the crime that could have sent him to death row and eventual execution. 

On March 1, 2023, Judge William Ryan dismissed all charges and freed Hastings, who was serving a sentence of life without parole.

The District Attorney’s Office had sought the death penalty for Hastings, which enables the prosecution to obtain a jury that is willing to impose a death sentence, and therefore may be more conviction prone. 

The jury may believe that if the death penalty is being sought, there is probably little doubt about the defendant’s guilt. 

During his incarceration, Hastings maintained his innocence. 

The DA’s Office repeatedly denied his request for DNA testing until finally in June of 2022, with the help of the Innocence Project and the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit, a DNA test essentially excluded him from the murder.

The current DA, George Gascón, commented, “Maurice Hastings survived a nightmare. He spent nearly four decades in prison exhausting every avenue to prove his innocence while being repeatedly denied. But Mr. Hastings has remained steadfast and faithful that one day he would hear a judge proclaim his innocence.”

At a news conference, Hastings, now 69, stated, “I was really overwhelmed. It was kind of unreal. In a sense, you want it to be true, but then you don’t want to be disappointed. I’ve been disappointed. I had tears. I asked, ‘Could this be it? Could this be the end?’ I was very emotional.”

Source: Death Penalty Information Center, Staff, March 7, 2023







"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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