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January 2 2010 | JAPAN

Japan

83 years old death row inmate calls for a new trial

 
printable version

Mainichi Daily News

83-year-old death row inmate looks for one last chance at retrial for 1961 murders

An 83-year-old man on death row for killing five people with poisoned wine in 1961 has spoken to the Mainichi as he appeals to the Supreme Court for a new trial.

"I'm already an old man," said Masaru Okunishi through an intermediary, Shozo Inou of the human rights organization Nihon Kokumin Kyuenkai (Japanese People's Rescue Association). "This may be my last try."

Okunishi was sentenced to die for the poisoning death of five women including his wife on March 28, 1961, in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. He was initially acquitted but found guilty on appeal, and his death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1972. The Nagoya High Court called a retrial in 2005, but it was cancelled in a hearing in 2006. He filed a special appeal with the Supreme Court in January 2007, objecting to the cancellation of the retrial. Okunishi's defense counsel will submit final written arguments to the court at the end of January, and a decision can be expected before the end of the fiscal year.

Asked how he felt about the 48 years since his arrest, Okunishi paused for a full minute before saying, "It can't be expressed in words. It's really such a shame, and so painful."

It has been more than 40 years since his acquittal was overturned and he was sentenced to death in September 1969. "This could be my last chance," Okunishi, who will turn 84 in January, said of the special appeal. "So I believe a retrial will start."

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