Freed death row convict's compensation will probably be paltry

TOKYO —

In 1966, Iwao Hakamada, a former featherweight boxer at one time ranked 6th nationwide, was arrested in Shizuoka for allegedly murdering a family of four. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The process of appeals were exhausted in 1980, and from that point onward until last week, he languished on death row awaiting execution of his sentence.

But Hakamada retracted the confession he made during his interrogation by the police, and a support group, convinced of his innocence, fought a protracted campaign for a retrial. Finally, another 34 years after the death sentence was finalized, he walked out of Tokyo’s Kosuge detention center, bringing an end to his status as the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner. The Tokyo High Court will determine whether his case warrants a retrial. But head judge Hiroaki Murayama raised several examples of exculpatory evidence, and, observes Nikkan Gendai (March 29), even if the prosecutor’s office insists on a retrial, the court would appear likely to reverse Hakamada’s guilty verdict.

In such a case, the government would be obliged to compensate Hakamada for his 48 years of incarceration. How would this be calculated?

According to the relevant statute, the amount is determined by the number of days behind bars. “It can range from 1,000 to 12,500 yen per day, with such factors as pain and suffering and loss of income taken into consideration by the court,” says attorney Masaki Kito.

In recent court rulings, Nepalese Govinda Mainali (who was imprisoned 12 years in the so-called “Toden OL” murder case) and Toshikazu Sugaya (imprisoned 10 years for the Ashikaga Incident) were absolved; both men received awards calculated according to the maximum daily amount of 12,500 yen.

Should the same rate be applied for Hakamada, he would be entitled to 219 million yen—a figure that might seem considerable at first glance; but if the total is converted to hourly wages, it would only come to 521 yen. In comparison, that is considerably below the lowest legal minimum wage in Japan’s 47 prefectures, which is 664 yen per hour.

Hakamada, moreover, would also be entitled to file suit for additional compensation based on another law, the State Redress Act of 1947.

“For such a claim to have a chance at winning, the plaintiff would have to establish proof that, during the initial investigation that led to his conviction, the police or prosecutor were culpable, either intentionally or through lack of due diligence,” explains the aforementioned attorney Kito. “But as the crime took place 48 years ago, the police and prosecutor, which possessed all the evidence, would have the advantage.”

Courts are not always sympathetic. Take the case of Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare official Atsuko Muraki, who was finally exonerated of charges of malfeasance in 2009 after the Osaka prosecutor was found to have fabricated evidence. Her claim of 3.3 million yen in compensation was turned down, and the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal on March 25. That ruling may have been influenced by the fact that Muraki was not only restored to her position but later boosted to the rank of vice minister—making her only the second woman to have ever held such a post.

After 48 years of hard time on death row, Hakamada suffers from possible adult-onset diabetes and dementia. No amount of money, certainly, will ever fully compensate him for the 48 years lost from his life. He was framed by the police and then judiciary stonewalled decades of efforts for a retrial. The crimes of the state, concludes Nikkan Gendai, are heavy ones indeed.

  • 1

    Seirei Tobimatsu

    Framers must be punished - their assets transferred to Hakamada. Isn't framing a heinous crime?

  • 5

    danalawton1@yahoo.com

    The police in Japan may interrogate a suspect for up to 23 days and the suspect is not permitted to have a lawyer present during that time. Japan is a great place but it is not a place where you would ever want to be accused of a crime.

  • 2

    CrazyJoe

    In Japanese police detention, there are interrogations of up to 15 hours a day. Beating, kicking and other torture are not rare, and only bare minimum food is given the suspects. There are limitations on defense lawyers' activities. They are not allowed to witness police interrogations of their clients and interviews with clients are often restricted to 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

  • 0

    papigiulio

    521 yen

    Pffff, If he only receives this amount, it will be a disgrace and huge slap in the face! Then I hope he pulls some sort of a "Count of Monte Christo" on all of the guilty people.

  • -5

    Frungy

    “For such a claim to have a chance at winning, the plaintiff would have to establish proof that, during the initial investigation that led to his conviction, the police or prosecutor were culpable, either intentionally or through lack of due diligence,” explains the aforementioned attorney Kito. “But as the crime took place 48 years ago, the police and prosecutor, which possessed all the evidence, would have the advantage.”

    Then rather than filing a civil lawsuit he should file a criminal law suit... that way the prosecutors and police involved would have to prove they DIDN'T do it, and his burden of proof would be non-existent since in criminal trials the burden of proof is on the defense. After he has the criminal conviction then the civil suit should be a slam-dunk. Oh, and of course during the criminal investigation the prosecutors and police would have to be detained for months, interrogated for hours a day, etc. I'm sure they'd confess, after all the prosecutor's office wouldn't want to lose its 99% conviction rate would it? Or maybe they apply a different standard when it is their asses on the line....

  • 4

    rickyvee

    if there was a quentin taratino ending to this story, then justice really would be served.

  • 0

    ADK99

    Frungy, I think even in Japan the burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defence. Would love to see criminal prosecutions if there is anyone still alive to prosecute though, this case is a horrible disgrace.

  • 2

    forzaducati

    Maybe it doesn't register with Mr. Hakamada anymore, after having languished away in solitary confinement for so long, but he is lucky not to have been strung up years ago. Or not, I am not sure, since the man's mind seems to be in pieces. Because today in the news is the case of a Mr. Michitoshi Kuma, who was accused and found guilty of murdering 2 girls in 1996. He kept denying being the culprit, but was nevertheless hanged in 2008. He was convicted on sloppy DNA testing as crucial evidence, in the same manner as Mr. Sugaya was put on death row. As we all know, Mr. Sugaya was later acquitted and subsequently released from prison. For Mr. Kuma however, it is too late, his bones ain't aching anymore, they hanged him. His lawyers are trying to reopen the case, but this was turned down by the courts. Them judges must have thought, he's dead, what's the use. Another utter disgrace. I can imagine that they won't let you off the hook by merely saying "I didn't do it", but if there is only circumstantial evidence, then the death penalty should not be applied.

  • 3

    zichi

    No amount of money can give back his life and erase from his memory the 48 years of hell he spent on death row. More than 17,000 mornings knowing it might have been his last one? I expect he don't even care about money since he wasn't even allowed to have any for so long. The guy's gone insane and will be in hospital for at least 6 months and will probably never leave?

  • -5

    Frungy

    ADK99Mar. 31, 2014 - 10:59AM JST Frungy, I think even in Japan the burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defence. Would love to see criminal prosecutions if there is anyone still alive to prosecute though, this case is a horrible disgrace.

    ADK99, I wish you were right, but unfortunately you aren't. In most countries there is a presumption of innocence, i.e. innocent until proven guilty. In Japanese criminal cases there is a presumption of guilt, i.e. guilty until proven innocent. This explains why suspected criminals are treated so badly, because in the eyes of the law they are already guilty.

    As a result of this "guilty until proven innocent" the prosecution has to do very little in the way of proving anything, and the burden of proving innocence is on the defense.

    In civil cases it is different, where both parties are treated equally as it isn't a case of innocence or guilty, but rather a question of resolving a difference. This is why I advised that Mr. Hakamada (or rather his attorney or family) file criminal charges against police and prosecutors, as this would mean that they were guilty until proven innocent, and it would also mean that accessing the associated case files would be much easier given the broad search and seizure powers the Japanese police have in criminal cases.

  • 1

    CH3CHO

    Should the same rate be applied for Hakamada, he would be entitled to 219 million yen—a figure that might seem considerable at first glance; but if the total is converted to hourly wages, it would only come to 521 yen. In comparison, that is considerably below the lowest legal minimum wage in Japan’s 47 prefectures, which is 664 yen per hour.

    521=219,000,000 / 46 years / 365 days / 24 hours

    521 yen per hour is the ratio assuming he worked 24 hours a day 365 days a year for 46 years. That ratio is not comparable to minimum wages of 664 yen per hour.

    Hakamada, moreover, would also be entitled to file suit for additional compensation based on another law, the State Redress Act of 1947.

    "For such a claim to have a chance at winning, the plaintiff would have to establish proof that, during the initial investigation that led to his conviction, the police or prosecutor were culpable, either intentionally or through lack of due diligence," explains the aforementioned attorney Kito.

    The court has already admitted that the blood stained shirt was forged evidence by police.

  • -5

    Frungy

    CH3CHOMar. 31, 2014 - 04:08PM JST The court has already admitted that the blood stained shirt was forged evidence by police.

    Actually the court has admitted nothing, a recently retired judge suspects it was forged, as does the lawyer involved in the case, but in court you have to PROVE these things, which is difficult if the prosecutor's office uses the retrial to refuse to release the evidence.

    And then there's PROVING who fabricated the evidence if the police have "misplaced" the chain of custody forms from a case 50 years ago. Everyone will be claiming that they didn't find the evidence, but rather it was found by someone else, and then you can't pin down who actually fabricated the evidence, or whether it was fabricated at all or just the result of a misunderstanding or mix-up.

    PROOF is the problem here and there are a thousand ways that the prosecutor's office can make life impossible for the claimant if it is a civil suit, including just plain refusing to appear and requiring Hakamada's team to show, before the trial, that they have enough proof to start digging, which they don't at this point. They have reasonable suspicion, which would be enough in a criminal case, but not a civil case.

  • 0

    itsonlyrocknroll

    '17000 mornings' is truly horrific . Other than the intermittent presence of his warders, Iwao Hakamada has been isolated from any human contact languishing on death row, the serious psychiatric consequences are probably irredeemable.

    Hakamada san family would be the best recipient for the 'paltry' compensation mentioned in this article.

  • 0

    Mocheake

    Total travesty and miscarriage of justice. Let's hope the framers get the bad karma they so richly deserve. The sooner the better.

  • 1

    JoiceRojo

    THis is a shame... after almost half a century a man was on death row, fro God's sake!!!

    Anyway, why JT used the word "paltry"??? it seems snobbish

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    Ah, they're just waiting for him to die so they don't have to pay out for their mistakes. There is absolutely no denying it. This is a statement about the Japanese justice system... or rather, the lack thereof. Now, people like Sandigulove can say that is an insult to Japanese tradition or what have you, but clearly it is just a lack of justice.

  • 1

    Jaymann

    and yet there are some who rather irrationally still support the barbaric and uncivilised practice of state sanctioned death sentences.

  • 0

    Ah_so

    JPY 219m - the price of a Japanese life. Just enough to buy a mansion in a smart Tokyo neighbourhood.

    The figures for compensation for wrongful imprisonment work out at about the average annual full-time wage - probably the basis for the calculation. It is nothing more than compensation for loss of earnings rather than compensation for loss of freedom.

  • 0

    Argus Tuft

    With any luck Mr Hakamada will see out his remaining years peacefully and comfortably and that he may finally get to know his own son in the time he has left.

    Let's hope that the legacy of this unconscionable act results in the mandatory recording of all police interviews at the very least.

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