Ohsaki Murder Case Ayako Haraguchi Defendant

Haraguchi in 2014
after appeal was rejected

Attorneys jubilant in 2017 after appeal has been accepted.


Ohsaki Timeline


After nearly three decades, 90-year-old Kagoshima woman wins retrial for murder conviction


  • JUN 28, 2017

KAGOSHIMA – The Kagoshima District Court on Wednesday ordered the retrial of a 90-year-old woman who served a 10-year prison term for the 1979 murder of her brother-in-law.

Ayako Haraguchi has consistently denied killing Kunio Nakamura, despite confessions by three of Haraguchi’s relatives who were also convicted in connection with the case.

Haraguchi was found guilty in 1980 by the district court, and fought through to the Supreme Court, which in 1981 shot down her appeal that was based on the confessions. She filed her first plea for a retrial in 1995 after being released from prison in 1990.

Her third attempt to reopen the case focused on the credibility of her relatives’ confessions, which were critical in the handing down of a guilty verdict.

While the relatives said the victim was strangled with a towel, Haraguchi’s defense counsel submitted a new forensic report based on autopsy photos claiming that the victim’s body showed no signs of suffocation.

The defense team also referred to expert testimony from a psychologist that cast doubt on another relative’s confession that she had witnessed Haraguchi proposing the murder to her relatives.

Prosecutors had claimed that signs of suffocation could have disappeared due to the body decomposing. They also dismissed the psychologist’s testimony as being inconsistent with other evidence and difficult to prove in court.

In 2002, the district court endorsed Haraguchi’s appeal to reopen the case due to “doubts about the credibility of confessions as interrogators are suspected of having forced or guided the statements.”

That decision, however, was turned down by the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court in 2004. Her second plea for a retrial in 2010 was also eventually dismissed.

According to the ruling upheld by the top court in 1981, Haraguchi, conspiring with the three, strangled Nakamura with a towel and abandoned his body in a cattle stable beside his home in October 1979.

The three relatives were Nakamura’s two brothers and a nephew. The eldest brother was married to Haraguchi at the time.

The three were sentenced to up to eight years in prison in 1980 and the rulings were finalized without appeal.


Case Timeline

High court rejects appeal for retrial over 1979 murder case July 15, 2014(Mainichi Japan) MIYAZAKI, Japan (Kyodo) -- A Japanese high court rejected on Tuesday an appeal for a retrial filed by a woman who served a 10-year prison term for the murder of her brother-in-law in 1979. Ayako Haraguchi, 87, has consistently pleaded not guilty to killing Kunio Nakamura, whose body was found in Osaki, Kagoshima Prefecture. But the confessions of three of Haraguchi's relatives, considered accomplices, were critical in the guilty verdicts. It was Haraguchi's second attempt to seek a retrial. The decision by the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court came after the Kagoshima District Court dismissed her request in March last year, saying it was difficult to conclude that the three relatives were led by investigators into making false confessions. During her first attempt to seek a retrial, the district court had decided to reopen the case in 2002, but the decision was overturned by the high court branch in 2004. The Supreme Court supported the high court's judgment in 2006. In an attempt to undermine the credibility of the statements of the three relatives, Haraguchi's defense counsel referred to a forensic report casting doubt on the court's findings that the victim was strangled with a towel. It also submitted a psychologist's written opinion stating the confessions were most likely not based on their personal experiences. Prosecutors, meanwhile, disclosed 213 new items of evidence to the defense counsel during the appeal trial, such as notes taken during the early stage of the investigation. Haraguchi was given a 10-year prison term in 1980 by the district court and fought through to the Supreme Court but her appeal was turned down. She was released from jail in 1990 after completing her term. The three relatives -- Nakamura's two brothers and a nephew of his -- were also sentenced to prison terms of up to eight years. The eldest brother was Haraguchi's husband at the time.

Murderess ex-con, 78, loses Supreme Court retrial bid The Japan Times: Feb. 2, 2006

The Supreme Court has rejected a special appeal for a retrial for a 78-year-old woman who was convicted and served time for murdering her brother-in-law in 1979, her lawyers said Wednesday. The top court upheld a high court decision that new evidence presented in the case was not sufficient to hold a new trial, they said. Ayako Haraguchi, who served a 10-year prison term, said Wednesday in Kagoshima that she will consult with her lawyers about Monday's decision and will continue to try to have her name cleared. In October 1979, Kunio Nakamura, a 42-year-old farmer, was found dead in a cattle barn near his home in the town of Osaki, Kagoshima Prefecture. Haraguchi and three others -- Nakamura's two brothers and one of his nephews -- were charged with murder. The two brothers confessed to the slaying. The Kagoshima District Court ruled Nakamura had been strangled with a towel, and sentenced Haraguchi to 10 years and the brothers to seven years each for murder and abandoning a corpse. The nephew was given one year for abandoning a corpse. The three men did not appeal, but Haraguchi went all the way to the Supreme Court.Haraguchi and the nephew filed for a retrial in 1995 after serving their sentences.Their defense team presented the court with a document that said there was a possibility the death might have been caused by Nakamura falling and breaking his neck that day.


77-year-old murderess denied retrial by high court
2004 Dec 10

MIYAZAKI (Kyodo) A high court on Thursday rejected the retrial plea of a 77-year-old woman who served 10 years in prison for the murder of her brother-in-law in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1979. Ayako Haraguchi, who insists she is innocent, served 10 years for murdering farmer Kunio Nakamura, 42, in October 1979. In 2002, the Kagoshima District Court moved to reopen the trial. The Fukuoka High Court's Miyazaki branch reversed this decision Thursday, however, stating that new evidence produced by the defense lacks substance. Nakamura's body was found in a barn next to his house in the town of Osaki. Haraguchi, her husband and another brother of the victim were later charged with murder, while a cousin of the victim, Yoshinori Nakamura, was charged with having joined the three others in dumping the victim's body. In 1980, the Kagoshima District Court ruled that Haraguchi and the two other murder defendants had strangled the victim with a towel. Haraguchi appealed the ruling, but her conviction was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1981. The three others did not appeal the district court verdict. After completing her 10-year term in 1990, Haraguchi filed a plea with the Kagoshima court in 1995. Yoshinori Nakamura later joined her in the retrial plea. In March 2002, the Kagoshima court decided to reopen the case, citing suspicions that the investigators who handled the case may have coerced one of the accused, who was mentally retarded, to make a false confession that also implicated Haraguchi in the crime. The Kagoshima court also stated that new evidence produced after the first trial raised doubt over whether the victim had been strangled, as police had alleged. Prosecutors appealed the 2002 decision, saying the initial investigation had been conducted appropriately. Yoshinori Nakamura committed suicide in 2001. His mother, who took over her son's retrial campaign, died in January. Haraguchi's lawyers said they would appeal to the Supreme Court.