Japan sentenced Iwao Hakamada to death for killing four people in 1968. On Thursday, the prison released Hakamada, 78, after more than 45 years on death row. “A Japanese man who may have been on death row longer than anyone else in the world walked out of prison on Thursday after newly analyzed DNA evidence prompted a judge to order that he be retried,” NPR reports.
“Japan’s police traditionally rely on confessions to prosecute but critics say they are often obtained by force,” BBC News explains.
Hakamada initially confessed to the 1966 murder of his boss — along with the murders of his wife and two children — after a 20 day interrogation. Interrogators brutally beat him, Hakamada continues. The confession was enough to condemn Hakamada although he later retracted it in court.
According to The Guardian, new DNA evidence cleared Hakamada, enabling the “frail” and “unsteady”-looking 78 year old to leave the prison with his sister, Hideko. Police found Hakamada’s boss and family stabbed to death in a soybean processing factory. New evidence proves blood stains on the alleged murders’ clothing do not match Hakamad’s DNA. “The clothes did not fit him, his supporters said. The blood stains appeared too vivid for evidence that was discovered a year after the crime. Later DNA tests found no link between Hakamada, the clothes and the blood stains, his supporters said,” Agence France-Presse writes. The Wall Street Journal adds that the DNA testing “pointed to fabrication of the evidence by investigators.”
“Japan and the United States are the only two group of seven rich nations to maintain capital punishment, and the death penalty has overwhelming support among ordinary Japanese,” Reuters reveals. Japanese executioners do not disclose the dates that they will carry out death sentences. For many years, Reuters adds, “Japan did not even officially announce that capital sentences had been carried out.”
Hakamada served the longest death row sentence in history, Guinness World Records states. His sister, Hideko, admits that Hakamada is showing signs of dementia after many long years in prison.