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Man set to be acquitted of murder in retrial after 13 years in prison

Masahiro Miyata, second from right, the second son of Koki Miyata, and lawyer Fumio Takemura, right, answer questions from reporters in Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, on Feb. 8, 2019. (Mainichi/Tomohisa Yazu)
Koki Miyata is seen in Kumamoto on Feb. 7, 2019 in this photo courtesy of a lawyer who serves as his legal guardian.

KUMAMOTO -- A man who served a 13-year prison term for a murder he claims he never committed is set to win acquittal in a retrial as prosecutors did not demand a penalty for him over the charge during a hearing on Feb. 8.

The Kumamoto District Court concluded the retrial on Feb. 8, and is likely to find Koki Miyata, 85, not guilty of fatally stabbing a man in the Kumamoto Prefecture town of Matsubase, which is now part of Uki, in 1985. The ruling is expected to be handed down on March 28.

A lawyer who serves as a legal guardian for Miyata attended the hearing on his behalf, as he is bedridden and suffering from dementia.

A prosecutor with the Kumamoto District Public Prosecutors Office read out the indictment dated February 1985. However, the prosecution said in its opening statement, "There are inconsistencies between key parts of his confession and the objective facts. The judicial judgment that the credibility of his confession has been shaken has been confirmed."

The prosecution added, "We will not make any claim to prove the defendant's guilt and would like to seek an appropriate judgment." Prosecutors asked the court once again to review approximately 200 pieces of evidence, including Miyata's depositions.

Presiding Judge Yoshihisa Mizokuni refused to review about 150 pieces of evidence, based on the original ruling as well as on proceedings that were held to decide whether to open a retrial of the case. The only objective evidence it accepted was that the murder did occur.

Following the decision to exclude Miyata's depositions from evidence, his defense team argued that there was no evidence linking their client to the murder at all, and demanded that he be acquitted.

However, prosecutors demanded a two-year prison term for Miyata on charges of violating the Act for Controlling the Possession of Firearms or Swords and Other Such Weapons and the Explosives Control Act, over which he had been indicted in addition to the murder charge. The defense team demanded a suspended prison term on these separate charges.

(Japanese original by Masanori Hirakawa and Kohei Shimizu, Kumamoto Bureau)

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