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Proven Innocent…After 17 Years!

June 4, 2009

To understand the differences between the American and Japanese justice systems one needs to watch the movie それでも僕はやってない (soredemo boku wa yattenai). It’s a chilling tale about how a boy gets accused of harassing a girl due to false testimony, ends up in jail and gets his life tarnished forever. The movie states figures such as 95% of the people accused of crimes are convicted.

The difference is the Japanese judicial system assumes you’re “guilty until proven innocent,” compared with the American “innocent until proven guilty.” The conclusion of the “Ashikaga Incident” today was that Sugaya-san was found not guilty after 17 years of imprisonment. Each newspaper reported different takes on the incident.

YomiuriThis kinda thing from Police and Prosecutors is completely inexcusable.” This quote from Sugaya-san captured the headline of the Yomiuri’s article. The day that Sugaya-san was released from jail, with his lawyers he gave a speech to the cameras: “The day I was accused, I became a criminal. It’s blurry, and I still don’t believe it. I’m innocent, I’m not a criminal. That’s all I can say.”

They then went on to add his commentary about the police and prosecutors in the case: “They cannot get away with this mistake. I thought this for 17 years. They need to apologize. I want my life back. This was terrible for my parents to go through.”

Asahi “I don’t feel like false accusations will decrease anytime soon” The Asahi reported the event through an interview with Prime Minister Aso. “I can’t believe that he was innocent, and was in jail for 10…17 years?” exclaimed the Prime Minister. The Asahi then asked, “Do you think this is a rare case?” The Prime Minister responded saying that yes he thought it was a rare case, especially because the main point of evidence in the case was DNA, and the DNA was found not to match up!

The Asahi then pressed the Prime Minister to give some opinions on how he feels about this case, and what can be done in the future. He then responded with the headline of the article, “I don’t feel like false accusations will decrease anytime soon.”

Nikkei “Prosecutor’s Office Frees Sugaya-san” The Nikkei had a brief article about the freeing of Sugaya-san, but it did mention that he was released after a demand for retrial was requested. The Chiba Jail in response to the Prosecutor’s Office’s ruling; “stopped his sentencing and set him free.”

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