On Thursday, the death row inmate who was the longest serving in the world was freed by a court in Japan. The court found investigators likely had fabricated the evidence in the inmate’s murder case putting the former professional boxer in jail for close to 50 years.
A District Court in Shizouka suspended the sentence of death and ordered Iwao Hakamada to be retried. The 78-year old had been found guilty in 1966 for the murder of a family and sentenced in 1968 to death.
Over 45 of his 48 years behind bars were on death row, which made him the longest serving death row inmate.
Hakamada, just hours later, walked out his detention center in Tokyo escorted by a sister while dozens of people from the media along with his supporters waited for his exit.
The former boxer briefly looked into the crowd and then entered a car without making a comment.
Hakamada had not been executed due to the time frame for appeals. It took over 27 years for the Supreme Court to decide to deny his first retrial appeal.
In 2008, he made a second appeal and the court ruled finally on Thursday in his favor.
The presiding judge said it was unjust by prolonging the detention of the defendant any longer. The possibility he is innocent is clear to a reasonable degree.
Hakamada had been convicted of the killing of a manager and the manager’s family and then setting fire to their home in central Japan, where he had been an employee.
On Thursday, the court said DNA analysis obtained by lawyers for Hakamada suggested the investigators fabricated evidence. Bloodstains were detected on clothing, which investigators said the culprit of the crime wore while carrying out the crime. However, they did not match Hakamada’s DNA. In addition, pants that prosecutors submitted into evidence were not large enough for Hakamada to wear and did not fit when he attempted to put them on.
The prosecutor’s office said the court’s ruling was not a surprise and that it would decide whether to appeal it to another court.
The order by the court for the retrial makes Hakamada the sixth person on death row to receive a trial in the history of the criminal justice system in postwar Japan. Four of the previous five were acquitted at a retrial while one has a case pending.