With the appeal trials for two defendants given death sentences in high-profile and very similar murder cases expected to commence in 2013, Josei Seven (Jan. 10-17) reports that there is a good chance both judgments will be overturned.
In April, the Saitama District Court found Kanae Kijima guilty on three counts of murder and sentenced her to death.
Tetsuya Fujimoto, a professor at Tokiwa University, says that the rather lengthy time between trials is due to all the evidence involved.
“There are so many crimes being inquired, and the amount of documents is huge,” says the professor. “Because the high-court judge has to read it all it requires a considerable amount of time to prepare.”
There have been few cases where more than one year passes before an appeal. In Kijima’s case, an appeal trial by next month is possible if the preparations are expedited.
Often compared to Kijima is the case of Miyuki Ueta, a former bar hostess, who was sentenced to death by the Tottori District Court for the murder and robbery of two men dating to 2009. She filed an appeal the same day.
Josei Seven points out that both cases were handled by lay judges, saying that the judgments reflected the feelings and emotions of average people. However, the appeal trials will be administered by professionals. Lawyer Masaru Wakasa, a former deputy director of the special investigation department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, says this change will make a large difference.
“It could be that the death sentences will be overturned,” says the lawyer. “In both cases, there are no confessions and eyewitness testimonies.”
Wakasa cites the use of sleep-inducing drugs, which both women were accused of using on their victims before they died, as an example of the problem facing the prosecutors.
“The crimes were carried out with sleep-inducing drugs, the same type the accused women were known to have procured,” says the lawyer. “So from the prosecutor’s point of view, there is no other explanation other only the criminals were the accused women, meaning there is no definitive evidence.”
Wakasa says that the issue is that there is no direct evidence linking the pair to the crimes.
“So in the appeal trials the key is how the indirect evidence will be considered,” he says.
Source: “Kijima Kanae to Ueta Miyuki hikoku kososhin de gyakuten muzai no kanousei shiteki mo,” Josei Seven (Jan. 10-17, page 67)