Executed October, 2008 Was he innocent?
JIADEP Note: Even up until his execution, Kuma always maintained that he was innocent. He was convicted on DNA evidence, extracted and analyzed the same way as that of defendant Sugaya in the Ashikaga case. Sugaya will soon be exonerated. We call on the Ministry of Justice to re-examine the evidence.
Different type of DNA uncovered after execution in Iizuka case: lawyers
October 26, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Tsutomu Iwata, one of defense lawyers seeking a retrial of former death row inmate Michitoshi Kuma, who was executed in 2008, uses a panel to explain the discovery of a DNA type different from Kuma's in Fukuoka on Oct. 25. (Mainichi)
FUKUOKA -- Lawyers seeking a retrial of former death row inmate Michitoshi Kuma, who was executed in 2008, announced Oct. 25 that an analysis of a photographic negative from DNA testing of blood taken from the bodies of two girls, has led to the discovery of a DNA type different from Kuma's. The lawyers submitted an opinion concerning "the real criminal's DNA" to the Fukuoka District Court. They said the court recommended that the prosecution check with the National Institute of Police Science (NIPS) to see if there are other materials in addition to the negative film it had kept. Kuma was executed in 2008 at the age of 70 after being found guilty of kidnapping and killing and dumping the bodies of two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1992. He had pleaded his innocence. In the so-called Iizuka incident, testing samples no longer exist because they were used up in the course of investigations into the case, and it is impossible to appraise DNA types once again. Legal experts and others as well as Kuma's defense lawyers are closely watching how the Fukuoka District Court will pass a judgment on the analysis of the photographic negative. In the death verdict, Kuma's DNA type and a DNA type taken from the bodies of the victims matched -- a piece of evidence that found him guilty. But his lawyers said the results of the negative film's analysis represent decisive proof of Kuma's innocence. The Fukuoka District Public Prosecutors Office says there is no mistake about the content of its appraisal. The photographic negative was part of the materials the NIPS appraised through the so-called MCT118 method. The Fukuoka District Court ordered it from the NIPS in February this year and Kuma's lawyers made a copy in September and asked experts to analyze it. The lawyers submitted an expert opinion in writing to the court on Oct. 23 and explained it in a three-way meeting with the prosecution and the court on Oct. 25. Kuma's DNA type was 16-26 type based on the MCT118 method. His lawyers say the analysis of the negative film found that 41-46 type was found in blood taken from the bodies of the girls and other places. On the other hand, the lawyers say 16-26 type was found in samples in which there was no possibility of mixing with the real culprit's blood, and was fuzzy. The lawyers say the negative film was not submitted as evidence. Instead, they say, only developed photographs which had deliberately removed a portion with 41-46 type were submitted. They allege that the NIPS covered up the negative film as evidence. The Fukuoka District Public Prosecutors Office, however, says it submitted the photographic negative as evidence and the photos were partly trimmed due to the size of documents, denying the cover-up allegations.
Fukuoka court seeks DNA evidence in retrial request for executed man
FUKUOKA -- The Fukuoka District Court has sought DNA data that was used to convict a man executed over a 1992 double-murder from the National Police Agency (NPA), bringing new hope to his family's bid for a posthumous retrial.
Michitoshi Kuma was convicted of murdering two first-grade girls from Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1999, and his death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2006. He was executed at the age of 70 in October 2008. Kumamichi had insisted on his innocence through the entire process, though urine and blood matching the victims' blood types was found in his car, and a subsequent DNA test also indicated a match. Kuma's family filed a retrial request in 2009, directly questioning the validity of that DNA test.
"The court has begun a careful examination of the evidence to decide whether to order a retrial," an attorney for Kuma's family stated, referring to the dispatch of DNA evidence to Fukuoka. According to sources close to the case, the Fukuoka District Court ordered the DNA films from NPA laboratories in mid-February.
The family's retrial request states that the accuracy of the NPA's "MCT116" DNA test used to match the blood in the defendant's car with that of the victims' was low, and that the test was conducted in a way that violated NPA guidelines. The Fukuoka District Court is expected to use the DNA films to analyze the test.
Questions on the accuracy of the MCT116 DNA test also led to the retrial and eventual acquittal of Toshikazu Sugaya, who was falsely convicted of the 1994 murder of a 4-year-old girl in Tochigi Prefecture. Unlike the Sugaya case, however, the original DNA samples for the Kuma trial no longer exist, making it hard to predict whether a retrial will be ordered.
Click here for the original Japanese story
(Mainichi Japan) March 1, 2012
Seeking retrial for executed inmate part of anti-death penalty struggle
26th January, 2010
An ongoing effort to seek a retrial for an executed death row inmate is also part of a struggle to abolish the death penalty in Japan, a lawyer involved in the retrial petition said Monday.
‘‘It is likely that innocent people will be mistakenly killed by the state as long as capital punishment is maintained,’’ the lawyer, Yasuyuki Tokuda, told a citizens meeting in Tokyo. ‘‘I want to appeal for the termination of the death penalty while working on the petition for a retrial.’‘
Tokuda represents the bereaved family of Michitoshi Kuma, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1992, a murder known as the ‘‘Iizuka Case.’’ Kuma, who was hanged in October 2008 at the age of 70, consistently pleaded his innocence.
His widow petitioned for a retrial last October with the Fukuoka District Court, arguing false DNA test results had led to his conviction.
Tokuda met with Kuma around a month before the execution and agreed to prepare for the filing of the retrial petition, he said.
‘‘He told me to make full preparations by collecting significant new evidence to open the door for a retrial as he believed he still had enough time as only two years had passed since his death sentence was finalized by the Supreme Court in 2006,’’ Tokuda said.
Kuma was executed without prior notice being given to his family, his lawyers or even himself, which is the normal practice in Japan, said Tokuda. ‘‘I’ve blamed myself since as his execution may have been prevented if I had helped him to file the retrial petition anyway.’‘
Tokuda and his fellow lawyers have submitted to the district court test results from a forensic expert and professor at Tsukuba University, which show Kuma’s DNA was different from the culprit’s.
The expert is known for his involvement in fresh DNA analysis that found the DNA of a convicted man did not match the bodily fluid taken from a 4-year-old girl killed in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, in 1990.
The man, Toshikazu Sugaya, will be acquitted following his ongoing retrial after spending 17 years in jail.
‘‘It is irrevocable if an innocent person is executed,’’ Tokuda told an audience of around 40. ‘‘It will shake up Japan’s use of the death penalty if the retrial for Mr Kuma starts and proves his innocence as it would prove murder by the state.’’
Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009
Japan Times Editorial
Glimpse of justice at retrial
The retrial of Mr. Toshikazu Sugaya will hopefully reveal how and why a false charge was made against him that resulted in him serving 17 1/2 years of a life sentence for the May 1990 murder of a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi, Prefecture. He was released last June after a new DNA test revealed his innocence.
In the second hearing Tuesday, the Utsunomiya District Court decided to summon a former public prosecutor who pressed Mr. Sugaya to accept the charge, using the results of the original DNA test while interrogating him in connection with two other unresolved murder cases involving 5-year-old girls.
The court also decided to allow playback of part of the tape recording of the interrogation. As the defense counsel said, the decision is epoch-making. It will expose how the public prosecutor badgered Mr. Sugaya into accepting the charge. Mr. Sugaya may be able to question the former public prosecutor in future hearings.
In December 2008, the Tokyo High Court, responding to a retrial request, ordered a fresh DNA test. The results of a test conducted at the request of the prosecution by Osaka Medical College professor Koichi Suzuki were accepted by the high court, leading to Mr. Sugaya's release. Both he and Tsukuba University professor Katsuya Honda, who conducted a test at the request of the defense counsel, testified Tuesday that the original DNA test was so unsound that it provided no scientific evidence that Mr. Sugaya could have been the perpetrator.
The original DNA test analyzed bodily fluid taken from the victim's underwear and from tissue paper discarded by Mr. Sugaya. Professor Honda said that in the original test an attempt to compile images for DNA identification failed and that "it was absolutely impossible" to determine whether the DNA from the victim's underwear matched Mr. Sugaya's DNA.
In a 1992 case involving the kidnapping and murder of two young girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, a suspect was arrested in September 1994. Although he denied involvement in the case, he was subsequently convicted on the basis of the same type of DNA test that was used on Mr. Sugaya. He was executed in October 2008. This case and others that involved the use of such DNA tests must be re-examined.
October 29 2009
Widow of executed inmate petitions for retrial.
The widow of an executed death row inmate petitioned for a retrial Wednesday with the Fukuoka District Court, claiming false DNA test results led to his conviction. The DNA testing which courts admitted as evidence in sentencing Michitoshi Kuma to death was conducted around the same time as that which caused Toshikazu Sugaya to spend 17 years in jail until his innocence was effectively proved recently through an updated DNA profiling technique.
The lawyers for the 62-year-old woman said they plan to prove that DNA tests at the time were conducted in a sloppy manner, because unlike Sugaya’s case, DNA samples taken in the murder case involving Kuma, in which 7-year-old girls were kidnapped and murdered in 1992 in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, are unavailable for fresh analysis.
They asked Katsuya Honda, a forensics expert and professor at Tsukuba University, to examine Kuma’s DNA type from his hair and other body tissues using the same MCT118 method employed during investigation by the National Research Institute of Police Science, and found it different from the type admitted by the courts as the culprit’s.
Honda was also involved in the fresh DNA analysis that found Sugaya’s DNA did not match the bodily fluid taken from the 4-year-old girl killed in 1990 in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, and led to his retrial, which opened Oct 21 and is believed certain to end up acquitting him.
‘‘According to the latest method of analysis, the DNA type which was admitted as the culprit’s in the final ruling and that of the former death row inmate are different, and his innocence is obvious,’’ the lawyers said.
Kuma, 70, was hanged in October last year, after the Supreme Court turned down in September 2006 his appeal against a lower court decision that sentenced him to death for abducting the two elementary school girls in Iizuka and strangling them in his car in 1992.
He denied any involvement during police questioning, and pleaded not guilty during his trial.
© 2009 Kyodo News. All rights reserved. No reproduction or republication without written permission.
Will DNA retest clear man executed last year?
Oct. 29, 2009
The widow of a convicted child-killer hanged last year petitioned for a retrial Wednesday with the Fukuoka District Court, claiming faulty initial DNA test results railroaded a man who had professed his innocence to the end.
The DNA test that courts admitted as evidence in sentencing Michitoshi Kuma to death was conducted around the same time as that of Toshikazu Sugaya, who spent 17 years in prison until newer DNA testing technology effectively cleared him of a girl's slaying in Tochigi Prefecture.
Lawyers for Kuma's 62-year-old widow said they plan to demonstrate that initial DNA tests carried out on him were also defective, and unlike in Sugaya's case, samples taken in connection with the 1992 kidnap-slayings of two 7-year-old girls in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, are unavailable for fresh analysis.
"The test method was still in the developmental stage and its sensitivity was poor. The criteria for determining the DNA type were also nascent and the results are inadmissible," the lawyers said in a statement.
They asked Katsuya Honda, a forensics expert and professor at Tsukuba University, to examine Kuma's DNA from hair and other body tissues using the same MCT118 method initially employed during the investigation by the National Research Institute of Police Science, and found it differed from the type admitted by the courts as the culprit's.
Honda was also involved in the fresh DNA analysis that found Sugaya's DNA did not match the bodily fluid found on the 4-year-old girl slain in 1990 in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, leading to his retrial, which started Oct. 21 and is expected to end in his acquittal.
"According to the latest analysis method, the DNA type that was admitted as the culprit's in the final ruling and that of the former death row inmate are different, and his innocence is obvious," the lawyers said.
Kuma, 70, was hanged last October. The Supreme Court in September 2006 rejected his appeal.
Executed inmate's kin also seek retrial
The family of an executed death row inmate has decided to request a retrial, possibly posing another challenge to a DNA-based conviction, his lawyers have said. Michitoshi Kuma was hanged at the Fukuoka detention house in October at the age of 70. He was found guilty of abducting two elementary school girls in 1992 in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, and strangling them in his car. Kuma, who was arrested in 1994, denied any involvement to police and pleaded not guilty at his trial. But the Supreme Court turned down his appeal in September 2006, upholding a lower court decision that sentenced him to death. The family's move was apparently stirred by Thursday's release of 62-year-old Toshikazu Sugaya, who was convicted of a 1990 murder in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, on the basis of a DNA test. Further tests conducted more than 15 years after the fact showed it is almost certain Sugaya didn't commit the crime. It is the first time prosecutors have suspended a prison sentence for a prisoner demanding a retrial. Kuma also was reportedly convicted on the basis of DNA testing based on blood samples from a victim's body. According to his lawyers, the DNA was tested using a method called MCT118 — the same one used in the Ashikaga case. Both tests were conducted at around the same time. The chances of finding two people with the same DNA sequence were 1 in 1,000 during the Ashikaga case. But over the past 17 years, the accuracy of DNA testing has improved vastly, reducing the probability to just 1 out of 4.7 trillion. After his release, Sugaya, who was serving a life sentence, said Thursday that he confessed to the slaying because the investigators refused to believe him. He also said he had faced violence from them. "I thought that because I am innocent, the DNA test didn't match," Sugaya told reporters. Commenting on the Ashikaga case, Yasuyuki Tokuda, Kuma's former lawyer, said that it became clear the court blindly trusted the 'scientific proof' that was presented. "I'm sure the Ashikaga case will have a tremendous impact on other cases that got guilty verdicts around the same time," Tokuda said. The National Police Agency and Tochigi police have set up in-house teams to study problems with the Ashikaga case in light of Sugaya's release. The Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office has already decided to conduct an overall review of the Ashikaga case.