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Court Rejects Appeal for Release of 93-Year-Old Convict On Death Row

May 30, 1985

TOKYO (AP) _ The District Court today turned down a petition for the release of a 93- year-old convict who has been on death row for more than 30 years, and his attorney appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Judge Kozo Fujita rejected the release petition for Sadamichi Hirasawa, saying that a statute of limitations on the death sentence applies only to those who are at large, said a court official, who declined to be identified.

A Japanese penal code states that a death sentence is void after 30 years if it is not carried out.

The Supreme Court upheld Hirasawa’s death penalty on May 7, 1955, more than 30 years ago.

Makoto Endo, chief defense attorney for Hirasawa, said in a telephone interview after the decision that he has appealed to the Supreme Court.

Fujita said he submitted the opinions of 185 scholars and other criminology experts reviewing the judgement, which was based on fingerprints found on a tea cup at the scene of the 1948 murder.

Hirasawa, a painter, was found guilty of robbing a Tokyo branch of the former Teikoku (Imperial) bank in January 1948 by posing as a sanitation officer and tricking 15 employees and a child into drinking what was described as anti-dysentery medicine.

Twelve of the 16 died from what was later found to be potassium cyanide.

Hirasawa confessed to the killings after lengthy questioning but retracted his confession in court and has since insisted that he is innocent.

On April 29 Hirasawa was moved to a medical detention house near Tokyo from a penitentiary in Sendai, 188 miles north of Tokyo, stirring speculation that he was about to be released.

Takehiko Hirasawa, an acting chief of a civic group working to rescue Hirasawa and an adopted son of the convict, said, ″I will go and see Hirasawa later, but I’m afraid that it (rejection of Hiraswa’s release) will give a severe shock to an old man.″

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