Circumstantial evidence adds up to life sentence 2006/May/18

KYOTO (Kyodo) The Kyoto District Court sentenced a 50-year-old man Friday to life in prison for the 2002 murder of a man in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, based solely on circumstantial evidence. The case is unusual because the only blood and parts of the body of 52-year-old Masaki Hayashi were found and the cause of death was never established. There were no witnesses or any direct evidence, and the defendant, Akio Karino, has maintained he is innocent.
While acknowledging that details of the murder would have to remain "unknown," the court ruled that the circumstantial evidence showed Karino committed the crime. "There was an extremely thorough destruction of evidence, and the crime was cold-hearted and heinous," presiding Judge Takeshi Uegaki said. "Various pieces of indirect (evidence) that indicate a link between the defendant and the crime cannot be ruled out as coincidental." According to the court, Karino killed Hayashi, who was an acquaintance, at the victim's home sometime during the night of Oct. 31, 2002. He stole three bank cards from the victim and used them to withdrew about 3.1 million yen. While there was no body, the judge said the traces of blood and fragments of burned human bone found in Hayashi's car prove he had been murdered. The defendant's physical characteristics strongly resembled those of the person caught by a security camera withdrawing money with the stolen cards, and the judge said it was significant that Karino paid off his debts after the murder. Uegaki also noted that DNA tests matched dog hair found in the victim's home and car, with samples taken from Karino's dog. Karino was president of a renovation firm that had worked on the victim's home. Prosecutors charged him with murder after determining that Hayashi could no longer be alive, as DNA tests showed the bone fragment came from his rib cage.