TOKYO: A Japanese man who poisoned his wife, lover and three other women with pesticide-laced drink has lost his final bid for a retrial after over 40 years on death row, a court spokeswoman said yesterday.
The supreme court decision on Wednesday means that Masaru Okunishi, 87, has exhausted all avenues of appeal and will likely die in prison — either by old age or execution. The octogenarian, who spent decades in solitary confinement and is now hospitalised, has long protested his innocence, saying his confession in the 1961 killings was coerced by police.
Okunishi was charged in the deaths of five women who consumed the drink laced with pesticides at a community party in the remote mountain village of Nabari in central Japan. The farmer initially told police he added lethal chemicals to the drink to murder both his wife and mistress so he could end a complicated love triangle. A dozen others fell ill but survived.
Okunishi withdrew the confession and was acquitted in a 1964 trial, with the court citing a lack of evidence. The decision was overturned by a higher court which sentenced him to death in 1969. In the latest appeal, the seventh bid to win a re-trial, Okunishi’s defence argued that pesticide used was not the kind found in the tainted drink. The court ruled that the evidence was not enough to overturn previous rulings, but some rights groups have called for a re-trial over the possibility that his confession was coerced. AFP