Japan's 1st Death-Row Convict Acquitted in Retrial Dies at 95


Kumamoto, Dec. 5 (Jiji Press)--Sakae Menda, the first person in Japan's history of trials who was acquitted in a retrial held after a finalized death sentence, died of old age at an elderly care facility in the city of Omuta in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Fukuoka on Saturday. He was 95.

In December 1948, a couple in the city of Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, were killed, and their two children were severely injured. In January 1949, Menda, a native of Kumamoto, was arrested over a different case. Police rearrested him later, on suspicion of robbery and murder, and forced him to admit that he committed the crime in Hitoyoshi.

Menda started to deny the allegations during his trial. But in March 1950, the Yatsushiro branch of Kumamoto District Court sentenced Menda to death. The ruling was finalized by the Supreme Court in December 1951.

In September 1979, Fukuoka High Court decided to reopen the case, acting on a sixth petition for a retrial from the Menda side. In the retrial, launched after an appeal from public prosecutors was rejected, the Yatsushiro branch of the Kumamoto court in July 1983 confirmed Menda's alibi and ruled that he was innocent. Menda was released soon after the ruling, more than 34 years after his arrest.

After the acquittal ruling was finalized, Menda worked hard to support other death-row inmates for their retrials and toured around the country to call for the abolition of capital punishment. He also attended a meeting held at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York to demand that death penalty be scrapped. In the 1980s, three more death-row convicts in Japan were acquitted in their respective retrials.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press