Shirahama_Masahiro


NOT GUILTY!!!!

Today-December 10, 2010, A mixed juror bench ( 6 laypeople and 3 judges) handed down a decision of not-guilty in a case in which death was demanded by the prosecution. As English reports come in, we will upload. This is truly an amazing moment.

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Shirahama Masahiro

Lay judges weigh call to hang, guilt denial
Nov. 17, 2010


KAGOSHIMA (Kyodo) Prosecutors sought the death penalty Wednesday for a 71-year-old man on trial for the murder-robbery of an elderly couple in Kagoshima Prefecture last year, marking the third time lay judges have participated in a capital punishment case and the first in which the accused has pleaded innocent.

The demand at the Kagoshima District Court against Masahiro Shirahama came a day after the Yokohama District Court handed down the first death penalty, as sought by prosecutors, under the lay-judge trial system introduced in mid-2009.

Unlike the previous two defendants, Shirahama is pleading innocent, claiming he was never at the scene of the crime.

A panel of six members of the public, randomly selected from eligible voters, and three professional judges are expected to deliberate for about three weeks, with a ruling anticipated on Dec. 10.

Shirahama is charged with beating Tadashi Kuranoshita, 91, and his wife, Hatsue, 87, to death with a metal shovel in their house in the city of Kagoshima in mid-June last year with the intention of robbing them.

In their closing statements Wednesday, prosecutors argued that logic points to Shirahama as the culprit, noting his fingerprints and traces of his DNA were found at the scene.

These pieces of evidence "have reinforced each other to ever more strongly point to the defendant's involvement," one of the prosecutors said. The victims' family has called for the death penalty.

Shirahama's counsel has argued that the victims may have been killed by an acquaintance familiar with the area and that fingerprints can be forged.

In October, prosecutors sought the gallows for the first time in a lay-judge trial against a man charged with murdering two women in Tokyo last year, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Nov. 1.

In the Yokohama case, a man charged with killing two men in Chiba Prefecture and dismembering and dumping their corpses was sentenced to death. The court, however, urged the man to appeal its sentence.

Citizen judges and their professionally trained colleagues jointly determine both the verdict and sentence for a defendant on trial by a simple majority, but at least one professional judge must be in the majority.

Lay judges have been involved in trying accused killers in which the state did not seek the gallows, and no such sentence was meted out.

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Lay judges face tough decision after man pleads not guilty over murder of elderly couple

KAGOSHIMA -- A man accused of murdering an elderly couple here in 2009 has pleaded not guilty to the charges in his trial involving lay judges.

"I never did it," 71-year-old defendant Masahiro Shirahama told the Kagoshima District Court during his first hearing on Nov. 2.

His defense counsel also claimed that the defendant is innocent, saying, "Mr. Shirahama never entered the scene."

Citizen judges may be required to make a tough decision between the death penalty and acquittal, as prosecutors may demand capital punishment for the defendant.

The trial is expected to last for 40 days -- from the time when the lay judges were selected on Nov. 1 to the ruling -- raising concerns about the burden that they will be required to shoulder.

The six lay judges selected from among members of the general public -- four men and two women -- and three professional judges will first deliberate on whether the defendant is guilty. If they find him guilty, they will decide on the extent of his penalty.

The lay judges are scheduled to conduct an on-the-spot inspection of the victims' home in Kagoshima on Nov. 5 -- the first such inspection to be conducted by citizen judges. They will deliberate on the case on a daily basis, except on weekends, before concluding the trial on Nov. 17. They will hold deliberations before handing down a ruling on Dec. 10.

In the opening statement, a prosecutor pointed out that Shirahama had almost used up his pension benefits on pachinko and drinking a day before the incident, and was unable to keep his promise to give some money to his elder sister.

The prosecutor then explained how the defendant is believed to have killed the victims. "He broke a window with a shovel and sneaked into the victims' home with his shoes on. He is believed to have searched drawers for valuables, then persistently hit the victims in the face and head, killing them."

The prosecutors' office also pointed out that fingerprints found on glass fragments and the drawers at the victims' residence and DNA samples taken from the scene matched those of Shirahama.

The defense counsel argued that there is no hard evidence that links Shirahama to the incident.

"Even if the fingerprints matched his, someone manipulated them to make it look as if it were a crime committed by a thief," the lawyer said. "The DNA samples didn't perfectly match his. There are problems with the process of taking the DNA samples and conducting tests on them."

According to the indictment, Shirahama sneaked into the home of Tadashi Kuranoshita, 91, and his 87-year-old wife Hatsue in Kagoshima in June 2009 in a bid to steal valuables and repeatedly struck them in the head and face with a metal shovel, killing them. Shirahama is charged with trespassing and murder-robbery.

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鹿児島夫婦強殺:被告が無罪主張 裁判員裁判の初公判

 鹿児島市で09年、高齢夫婦を殺害したとして強盗殺人などの罪に問われた同市三和町の無職、白浜政広被告(71)は2日、鹿児島地裁(平島正道裁判長)で開かれた裁判員裁判の初公判で「絶対に私はやっていません」と起訴内容を否認した。弁護側も無罪主張した。検察側の死刑求刑もあり得るため、裁判員が無罪と極刑の間で極めて難しい選択を迫られる可能性がある。1日の選任手続きから判決までは裁判員裁判最長の40日間で、裁判員の負担も懸念される。

 裁判員は男性4人、女性2人。3人の裁判官とともに有罪、無罪を判断したあと、有罪の場合は量刑も決める。5日には被害者宅で裁判員初の現場検証があり、この日と土日・祝日を除いて連日開廷する。17日に結審し、評議をへて12月10日に判決の予定。

 検察側は冒頭陳述で、白浜被告が事件前日までにパチンコや飲み代で年金をほぼ使い切り、姉にお金を渡す約束が果たせない状況になっていたことを指摘。殺害状況については「スコップで窓をたたきわって土足で自宅に上がり込んだ。タンスから金品を探したあとに、被害者の顔や頭などをめった打ちにして殴り殺したと考えられる」と説明した。侵入のために割ったガラス片や物色したたんすなどから採取された指紋・掌紋や細胞片のDNA試料が白浜被告と一致したことも指摘した。

 一方、弁護側は冒頭陳述で「白浜被告を事件現場と結びつける証拠はない。直接証拠は何もありません」と強調。指紋については「一致したとしても、何者かが物取りの犯行に見せかけるために捏造(ねつぞう)した」、DNAについても「完全一致ではない。採取や鑑定のプロセスにも問題がある」と反論した。現場周辺で不審者情報があることも指摘して「現場をよく知る顔見知りによる犯行だ」と主張した。【川島紘一、遠山和宏、銭場裕司】



「ぬれぎぬはれた」 無罪判決の白浜さんが会見

会見する白浜政広さん=10日午後1時29分、鹿児島市、長沢幹城撮影

 判決後、白浜政広さん(71)と弁護団3人は県弁護士会館で会見をした。数十人の報道陣が集まる中、弁護団と共に白浜さんが会場に入ると、一斉にフラッ シュがたかれ、「恥ずかしい」と顔をおおった。軽く一礼して着席し、「おかげ様で、無罪判決をいただきました。ぬれぎぬをはらすことができてうれしい。今 はまだ何をしゃべっていいか分かりません」と穏やかな表情であいさつした後、大きく息をはいた。

 主任弁護人の新倉哲朗弁護士は「疑わしきは被告人の利益にという大原則にのっとった判決でよかった」と話した。判決で白浜さんが現場に行ったと認定され たことについては、新倉弁護士は「残念な気がしますが、でも、結論は無罪ですから」と話した。白浜さんは「それは私がとやかく言うことではない。私は現場 に行っていないし、やっていないと話しているので、特別な感情は持たない」と硬い表情で話した。

会見する白浜政広さん=10日午後1時29分、鹿児島市、長沢幹城撮影



Lay judges acquit 71-yr-old man in murder of elderly couple

10th December, 2010
KAGOSHIMA

A 71-year-old man was acquitted Friday of murdering and robbing an elderly couple in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, last year, marking the first acquittal in a lay judge trial in which prosecutors had sought the death penalty.

Presiding Judge Masamichi Hirashima rejected the prosecutors’ argument that the only explanation for the crimes was that they were committed by Masahiro Shirahama, finding him not guilty based on the principle of benefit of the doubt. In the ruling, the judge also raised doubts about police investigations into the case.

Shirahama had been accused of breaking into the home of Tadashi Kuranoshita, 91, and his wife Hatsue, 87, in June last year and beating them to death with a metal shovel in order to rob them. But he denied the charges during his trial at the Kagoshima District Court. There were no witnesses to the crime.

‘‘I am truly pleased that the frame-up was cleared,’’ Shirahama said at a press conference after the court was adjourned.

One of the lay judges told a separate news conference, ‘‘I feel sorry for the bereaved family, but the only evidence we had was insufficient.’‘

Yasunori Eto, deputy chief prosecutor of the Kagoshima District Public Prosecutors Office, said the office would examine the ruling thoroughly and deal with the case appropriately.

It is also only the second-ever acquittal since the new criminal trial system involving citizen judges was introduced last year, and the fifth acquittal in any district court trial in which capital punishment had been sought since comparable data become available in 1975.

It took 40 days for six citizen judges—four men and two women—and three professional judges to reach the ruling since the first hearing, making it the country’s longest lay-judge trial so far.

The presiding judge said in handing down the ruling, ‘‘The situation indicates a rancorous crime, and we cannot determine that it was driven by a mercenary motive,’’ noting that cash was left after the incident at a place in the house where it could easily be found.

In seeking the death penalty, the prosecutors had argued that Shirahama was motivated to rob the victims because he had spent all of his pension money on entertainment, while his defense said it was not a robbery but a crime of passion committed by someone acquainted with the victims.

Hirashima raised doubts also about the prosecutors’ arguments concerning how the defendant was supposed to have killed the victims and how he escaped, noting it could not be determined that there were no traces at the scene of persons other than the defendant, and that an insufficient number of crime scene photos had been taken during the police investigation.

But he ruled out Shirahama’s claim that he had never gone to the home of the victims, recognizing the credibility of a crime lab report that fingerprints and cell fragments found at the scene matched those of the defendant.

The defendant could not have been convicted of home invasion and attempted robbery, however, as the date of those crimes could not be specified, the judge added.

Under the lay judge system, six ordinary people randomly selected from among eligible voters examine murder and other serious criminal cases together with three professional judges at district courts. A ruling is decided by a majority of judges, or five judges or more, as long as at least one professional judge is among the majority.


Lay judges acquit 71-yr-old man in murder of elderly couple
Friday 10th December, 2010

A 71-year-old man was acquitted Friday of murdering and robbing an elderly couple in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, last year, marking the first acquittal in a lay judge trial in which prosecutors had sought the death penalty.

Presiding Judge Masamichi Hirashima rejected the prosecutors’ argument that the only explanation for the crimes was that they were committed by Masahiro Shirahama, finding him not guilty based on the principle of benefit of the doubt. In the ruling, the judge also raised doubts about police investigations into the case.

Shirahama had been accused of breaking into the home of Tadashi Kuranoshita, 91, and his wife Hatsue, 87, in June last year and beating them to death with a metal shovel in order to rob them. But he denied the charges during his trial at the Kagoshima District Court. There were no witnesses to the crime.

‘‘I am truly pleased that the frame-up was cleared,’’ Shirahama said at a press conference after the court was adjourned.

One of the lay judges told a separate news conference, ‘‘I feel sorry for the bereaved family, but the only evidence we had was insufficient.’‘

Yasunori Eto, deputy chief prosecutor of the Kagoshima District Public Prosecutors Office, said the office would examine the ruling thoroughly and deal with the case appropriately.

It is also only the second-ever acquittal since the new criminal trial system involving citizen judges was introduced last year, and the fifth acquittal in any district court trial in which capital punishment had been sought since comparable data become available in 1975.

It took 40 days for six citizen judges—four men and two women—and three professional judges to reach the ruling since the first hearing, making it the country’s longest lay-judge trial so far.

The presiding judge said in handing down the ruling, ‘‘The situation indicates a rancorous crime, and we cannot determine that it was driven by a mercenary motive,’’ noting that cash was left after the incident at a place in the house where it could easily be found.

In seeking the death penalty, the prosecutors had argued that Shirahama was motivated to rob the victims because he had spent all of his pension money on entertainment, while his defense said it was not a robbery but a crime of passion committed by someone acquainted with the victims.

Hirashima raised doubts also about the prosecutors’ arguments concerning how the defendant was supposed to have killed the victims and how he escaped, noting it could not be determined that there were no traces at the scene of persons other than the defendant, and that an insufficient number of crime scene photos had been taken during the police investigation.

But he ruled out Shirahama’s claim that he had never gone to the home of the victims, recognizing the credibility of a crime lab report that fingerprints and cell fragments found at the scene matched those of the defendant.

The defendant could not have been convicted of home invasion and attempted robbery, however, as the date of those crimes could not be specified, the judge added.

Under the lay judge system, six ordinary people randomly selected from among eligible voters examine murder and other serious criminal cases together with three professional judges at district courts. A ruling is decided by a majority of judges, or five judges or more, as long as at least one professional judge is among the majority.
Defendant facing death penalty decision in lay judge trial acquitted



Masahiro Shirahama, center, is flanked by his defense lawyers as he leaves a detention center in Kagoshima after being acquitted of robbery and murder on Dec. 10. (Mainichi)

KAGOSHIMA -- A local man has become the first defendant for whom the death penalty had been sought to be acquitted in a lay-judge trial.

The Kagoshima District Court on Dec. 10 found Masahiro Shirahama, 71, not guilty of robbing and murdering a couple at their home in Kagoshima in 2009.

The ruling, which reflects the public's sentiments, has raised doubts about the way prosecutors tried to prove the defendant's guilt, and is likely to have a huge influence on law enforcers' investigations and other criminal trials.

Since 1975, there have been only four cases in which defendants for whom the capital punishment had been sought have been acquitted in initial trials at district courts, according to the Supreme Court. The last such case was a ruling handed down by the Tsuchiura branch of the Mito District Court in 2008.

In handing down the latest ruling, Presiding Judge Masamichi Hirashima pointed out that prosecutors failed to sufficiently prove the defendant's guilt, and declared: "It is impossible to fully accept prosecutors' assertion."

The focal point of the trial was whether Shirahama was the perpetrator, since he told the court that he had never been to the murder scene.

Prosecutors pointed out that fingerprints and palm prints taken from fragments of a window and a ransacked closet at the victims' home and DNA in cell fragments found on a mosquito-screen window matched those of Shirahama's.

"Unless Shirahama were the perpetrator, it would be impossible to provide a rational explanation (of why these samples matched)," a prosecutor told the court during a hearing.

The court, however, dismissed the assertion. Regarding fingerprints found on the glass fragment, the presiding judge said, "Law enforcers failed to take photos of the fingerprints or take other measures to preserve evidence. No objective evidence has been submitted to the court. Law enforcers' forensic investigation was insufficient."

While concluding that fingerprints left on the closet show that the defendant touched it, the court noted that his fingerprints or palm prints were not found on other drawers that had been opened, pointing to the possibility that another person opened them.

The defense counsel had contended that Shirahama was falsely accused of murdering the couple.

"Cash and a wallet were left at the scene. The crime was committed by an acquaintance who harbored a grudge against the defendant," the lawyer said.

The defense also dismissed the admissibility of evidence submitted by prosecutors.

"The possibility that someone deliberately placed the defendant's fingerprints at the scene cannot be ruled out," the lawyer said. "The results of the DNA test, which can no longer be redone because samples have been used up, cannot be trusted."

The court set a 40-day schedule for the trial -- from Nov. 1, when six lay judges were appointed, until the ruling on Dec. 10 -- the longest period for a lay-judge trial. After the court held the last hearing on Nov. 17, a record 14 days of deliberations were held between the lay judges and three professional judges.

Shirahama was charged with sneaking into the home of 91-year-old Tadashi Kuranoshita in Kagoshima sometime between June 18 and 19 last year, and fatally bashing him and his 87-year-old wife Hatsue with a shovel to steal money and other valuables from them.

If six lay judges and three professional judges are divided over whether to convict a defendant in a crime case, they are supposed to make a decision by a majority. However, in convicting the defendant, at least one professional judge must agree to do so even if all lay judges vote to hand down a guilty ruling.

In the Kagoshima case, it is possible either that a majority of the nine judges voted to acquit Shirahama or that all the three professional judges concluded that he was not guilty even though a majority of the nine voted to convict him.







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鹿児島夫婦殺害:生死選択迫られ裁判員「眠れぬ日あった」



会見を終えて弁護士会館を出る白浜被告=鹿児島市易居町で2010年12月10日午後2時56分、遠山和宏撮影

 「主文、被告人は無罪」。被告の生死の選択を迫られた市民の判断は、無罪だった。鹿児島地裁で10日にあった鹿児島市の高齢夫婦殺害事件の裁判員裁判。裁判員は「眠れない日もあった」と40日にわたって悩み続けた苦しみを語った。

 鹿児島地裁。裁判員と補充裁判員8人は判決後、緊張した様子で記者会見場に姿を現した。強盗殺人罪に問われ、検察側が死刑を求刑した白浜政広被告 (71)に対して無罪判決を出した心境を問われ「判決の通りです」との答えが続き、評議の重苦しさが伝わるような空気が会場を支配した。「寝る時は思い返 した。眠れない日もありました」。出席した1人は被告の生死がかかる重大事件を裁く重みをこう表現した。

 鹿児島地検の江藤靖典次席検事は判決後、約1時間にわたって報道陣の質問を受けた。「判決文を見てからでないと何とも言えない」。江藤次席検事は淡々と答えたが、途中から席に着いた主任検事は厳しい表情。

 「証拠構造が崩された感触はありますか」との報道陣の質問に「正直私は、ないですね」と答えた主任検事。「読んでないですから。判決文を読んでみないと」とあわてたように付け加えた。

 一般市民の裁判員らが下した判決は、捜査に多くの疑問を投げかけた。現場に警察官の足跡や手袋のあとが複数残っていたことを挙げ「試料採取が行わ れるまでの現場保存が完璧だったのか疑問がある」と指摘。ほかにも、重要証拠であるガラス片や網戸からの証拠の採取過程が写真撮影されていない▽侵入口付 近の足跡の土砂など鑑定を実施した形跡がない▽足跡鑑定のために被告がいつどのような靴を使用していたのかの捜査が不明--と列挙した。

 「真相解明のための必要な捜査が十分に行われたのか疑問が残り、検察官が主張するように『徹底的に現場を調べ上げた』と評価することはできない」。自信を持って臨んだはずの裁判の結末は、事実上の捜査批判と言える内容だった。

 一方、白浜さんを逮捕した鹿児島県警。刑事企画課幹部は「判決文は読んだ。無罪が確定すれば捜査の改善点などの検討も必要だと思うが、現段階では 何も言えない」と語るだけ。ある幹部は「DNAも指掌紋も認定しているにもかかわらず無罪になっては、今後どのように捜査をすればいいのか」と戸惑いを隠 せない。

 無罪判決を勝ち取った白浜さんは午後3時すぎ、09年6月の逮捕以来初めて自宅に戻った。「ゆっくりしたい。ほっとしています。姉に『ただいま』 と言いたい」と待ち受けた報道陣に表情を緩ませ、車に乗り込んだ弁護士には右手を挙げて「ありがとうございます」と言って見送った。

 宮崎地裁は3日前、義母ら家族3人を殺害した被告に死刑判決を言い渡した。裁判員を務めた宮崎市の会社員が10日、取材に応じ、鹿児島地裁の判決について語った。

 「否認事件で一歩間違えば冤罪(えんざい)を生みかねない。証拠が不十分であれば、裁判員の方が無罪だと判断したのも、まあそうだろうなと思います」

EDITORIAL Acquittal instead of death Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
Japan Times

Public prosecutors in Kagoshima had sought the death penalty for a 71-year-old man who was accused of murdering and robbing an elderly couple in their home in the city in June 2009. But six lay judges and three professional judges at the Kagoshima District Court acquitted him on Dec. 10, marking the first acquittal in a lay judge trial in which the death penalty had been sought. The trial lasted 40 days — extremely long for a lay judge trial. The defendant, Mr. Masahiro Shirahama, denied the charges at the time of his arrest, during the interrogations and throughout the trial. He had no alibi. But there were no eye-witnesses and no evidence that linked him to the murder, although his DNA, fingerprints and palm prints were found in the couple's home. The judges should be praised for correctly giving the defendant the benefit of the doubt, upholding the principle in a criminal trial that no punishment is meted out when there is uncertainty about guilt. The police and prosecution should humbly accept the ruling, which casts strong doubt on their investigation and arguments on the case. The prosecution charged that Mr. Shirahama beat the 91-year-old husband and the 87-year-old wife to death with a shovel in order to rob them. The ruling admitted that the DNA, fingerprints and palm prints showed that the defendant had in the past touched a screen window, a window pane and a chest of drawers in the house. But it said the fact that no traces of the defendant were found on the shovel while traces of the victims were found on the implement undermined the prosecution's argument that Mr. Shirahama was the perpetrator. The ruling also said that because cash was left at the crime scene in easy-to-find places, it is doubtful that the perpetrator aimed to rob the couple as the prosecution argued. The ruling said that the situation rather showed that the perpetrator murdered the couple out of rancor toward the couple. Pointing out that footprints of investigators were left at the crime scene and that they failed to take photos of them collecting evidence at the home, the court doubted whether investigators fully carried out the investigation as required. The ruling serves as a reminder to authorities that they must faithfully follow the basics of investigative procedures.