High court orders retrial of ex-nurse's aide convicted of 2003 murder

December 20, 2017 (Mainichi Japan)


Mika Nishiyama, left, is seen smiling before a group of her supporters following the Osaka High Court's decision to open a retrial, in Osaka's Kita Ward on Dec. 20, 2017. (Mainichi)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- The Osaka High Court on Wednesday ordered a retrial for a former nurse's aide who has completed her prison term for murdering a male patient in 2003 by removing his respirator at a hospital in Shiga Prefecture, western Japan.

Mika Nishiyama, 37, was found guilty of causing the 72-year-old male patient's death by inducing hypoxia and her conviction was finalized in 2007, but the high court ruled there was uncertainty over the cause of death.

Presiding Judge Mariko Goto said there was a possibility that the man had died of arrhythmia based on a postmortem examination.
The lower court decision in September 2015 dismissed Nishiyama's plea for a retrial, which was based on a medical expert's opinion that the patient may have died of arrhythmia.
"I didn't think the court would order a retrial and I'm glad the judge accepted (my plea)," Nishiyama, who served out her 12-year prison term last August, said in a news conference.

The focal point of the trial was the credibility of Nishiyama's confession. She initially admitted to murdering the man during voluntary questioning but later pleaded not guilty in court proceedings, claiming that interrogators induced her to make a false confession.

In 2005, the Otsu District Court determined her confession was credible and sentenced Nishiyama to 12 years in prison. The high court and the Supreme Court later upheld the ruling.

Nishiyama's initial application for a retrial, filed in 2010, was rejected by the district court, the high court and the top court. Her subsequent application, submitted in 2012, was dismissed by the Otsu District Court, which said there was "no reasonable doubt regarding the credibility of the confession."

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Woman who served 12 years for murder granted retrial
December 21, 2017

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Mika Nishiyama, foreground, talks in a news conference in Osaka on Dec. 20 along with her parents after the Osaka High Court decided to grant a retrial. (Shinnosuke Ito)

OSAKA--A former assistant nurse who says she was wrongfully convicted of murdering a hospital patient and spent 12 years in prison for the crime has been granted a retrial.

The Osaka High Court ruled Dec. 20 that “reasonable doubts remain” as to whether Mika Nishiyama, now 37, is the culprit.
In granting a retrial, the court said the 72-year-old male inpatient may have died naturally and that Nishiyama could have come under duress from police investigators and prosecutors to confess to a crime she did not commit.

The case dates to an inpatient's death in May 2003 at Koto Memorial Hospital in Higashi-Omi, Shiga Prefecture, where Nishiyama worked as an assistant nurse.

In the ruling, Presiding Judge Mariko Goto noted that Nishiyama may have confessed "to pander to police investigators and prosecutors because they induced her to do so.”

The ruling nullified the Otsu District Court’s earlier decision to refuse Nishiyama’s request for a retrial.

Nishiyama told reporters after the high court’s decision that she hoped prosecutors would not appeal to the Supreme Court.
"But I think that they will do so," she said. "I will also continue to fight (to prove my innocence) from now on.”
Nishiyama admitted she was surprised by the Osaka High Court ruling "as I had not thought that I would be granted a retrial."

She said the ruling "meant I was able to give my parents good news.”

The Osaka High Public Prosecutors Office will decide within five days whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Yasuhiro Tanabe, a high-ranking prosecutor of the office, said, “It is regrettable that the prosecutors’ assertion was not accepted. We will fully examine the contents of the (high court’s) decision and deal with this case appropriately.”

Shiga prefectural police initially suspected the inpatient's artificial respirator had come off naturally, setting off an alarm, but that Nishiyama and two nurses on duty at the time did not notice the alarm, and the man died as a result of their negligence.

Submitting to voluntary police questioning in July 2004, Nishiyama said, “I removed the artificial respirator.”
Police took it as a murder confession, which became the pillar of the prosecution’s case against her.

Despite the confession, Nishiyama pleaded innocent in her trial, but was found guilty. Her sentence of 12 years’ imprisonment was finalized at the Supreme Court in May 2007.

She was released from prison in August this year after completing her term.

The disputed points in whether to grant Nishiyama a retrial were the inpatient’s cause of death and the reliability of her confession. The final ruling in the original case had said that the cause of death was acute cardiac arrest caused by the suspension of oxygen supply, and that the confession was trustworthy.

However, the latest ruling accepted the possibility that the patient died naturally due to fatal arrhythmia. The doubt was cast by data taken from analysis of his blood taken during an internal examination after the man died.

After being released from prison, Nishiyama took part in a gathering of supporters held in her hometown of Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, in late October.

She told the 120-strong crowd at the time, “I will do my best until the end without giving up.”

She also told them: “I was pleased to be released from the prison. But it was painful that I had to spend my 20s, the most important period of my life, in prison.”

Later, she told The Asahi Shimbun that she felt she came to develop rapport with a police investigator while being questioned by him, leading her to tell him, “I committed the murder.”

“I regret those things the most,” she said in the interview conducted after her release.

Nishiyama is now living with her 75-year-old father and 67-year-old mother, and wants to find a job as a nursing-care worker.
“From now on, I want to devote myself to my parents. I also want to help people in weak positions as much as possible,” she said.