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Hearing ends in retrial of man over 1985 murder, acquittal expected

KUMAMOTO, Japan (Kyodo) -- A hearing concluded Friday in the retrial of a man over a 1985 murder in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kumamoto, with the district court expected to acquit him in March after prosecutors dropped the murder charge.

In the hearing that concluded in one day at the Kumamoto District Court, lawyers for Koki Miyata, 85, called for an acquittal and prosecutors asked for "an appropriate decision from the court."

Miyata was originally sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1986 and the ruling was finalized by the Supreme Court four years later. He was released on parole in 1999 and now lives in a nursing care facility as he suffers from dementia.

The process to seek a retrial commenced in 2012, with Miyata's defense team submitting new expert evidence to the Kumamoto court that they claimed showed the victim's scars did not match the shape of the knife believed to have been used in the attack.

The district court decided in June 2016 to retry Miyata, saying "doubts have been raised" over the credibility of his initial confession.

The Fukuoka High Court upheld the lower court ruling in November 2017, dismissing the appeal by prosecutors. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in October last year.

The victim, Matao Okamura, 59, was found dead at his home in the town of Matsubase, Kumamoto Prefecture, in January 1985. Miyata, who was arrested 12 days later, was a companion and shogi partner of Okamura.

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