Retrial for Ayako Haraguchi

Photography AdS/Ayako Haraguchi In 1980, Ayako Haraguchi was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison which she served in full. She was released in 1990.

Haraguchi was accused of the 1979 killing of her then brother-in-law for insurance money.

Her then brother-in-law, Kunio Nakamura (42) was a farmer. He was found collapsed beside a ditch after falling from his bicycle in his neighborhood. However, somehow his body was later discovered in a cattle barn near his home in Osaki, Kagoshima, Japan.

Questions

None of the articles I read explain

  • what caused Nakamura to fall off his bike,
  • whether there were witnesses
  • were any cars involved
  • did he have head trauma (from hitting your head on the pavement),
  • was his neck broken and if so, at what angle,
  • did an ambulance provide medical care at the spot,
  • any blood found on that street, and of course,
  • how his body was moved.

If you know the answer to any of these questions or have newspaper links, please contact me so we can update this post.

Haraguchi and three men — the victim’s two brothers and a nephew — were accused of this murder. The victim’s eldest brother was Ayako Haraguchi’s then-husband. The three men did not contest the 1981 guilty verdict. Haraguchi did. Her conviction was based on the confessions of those three men. However, now there is doubt about their mentally competency and that those confessions were false.

The judicial route taken

In 2002, Haraguchi won the appeal to reopen the case because of “doubts about the credibility of confessions as interrogators are suspected of having forced or guided the statements.” In 2004, that decision was turned down by the Fukuoka High Court. Haraguchi launched a second plea for a retrial in 2010. It was dismissed. Her third attempt was successful.

This success is based on the following:

  • Her defense lawyers argued that the cause of death was shock due to loss of blood caused by the bicycle accident (but I have not found any details about this accident or whether it involved cars, etc. See my notes above.)
  • a forensic report casts doubt over the court’s finding that the victim was strangled with a towel. The autopsy pictures apparently show no signs of suffocation on the victim’s body. I have not found the autopsy report online.
  • The prosecution blame decomposition for the absence of suffocation signs. Is that true? Manual strangulation (even with a towel) will leave damage to the neck. The autopsy report can tell us the truth about the condition of the neck and windpipe.
  • The three men were mentally incompetent however, I have not read anything about their state of minds, IQ, etc.

From the three men, the nephew also filed an appeal for a retrial. Alas, he committed suicide in 2001. The court also accepted a plea for a retrial from Haraguchi’s then-husband. He passed away. I did not read anything about the third man.

Remaining questions

Presiding Judge Atsushi Tomita said in the latest decision that the confessions “are not credible as there is a doubt that they may have changed in line with the investigative authority’s guidance.” The court said that there was no objective evidence to support the confessions given by these three men. The question remains why? Was police corrupt? Did they have a pattern of coercing confessions? Were the officers involved ever indicted? What happened to the insurance claim?

The Kagoshima District Public Prosecutor’s Office is considering to appeal this latest court decision. They should weigh this very carefully because I agree with the Japanese Times: “the prosecutors should follow the principle of criminal justice that the benefit of doubt goes to the accused. If they still have a case against Haraguchi, they should make it in a retrial.”