JIADEP NOTE: This case goes to show how far the police will go to clear a crime and save face. The crime is a mugging of an older man by young assailants- an increasing phenomena. The victim in this case was a judge. The assailants have never been found but police have gathered as many as ten confessions using violence. The two principle defendants in the case, both adults at the time of arrest, have been vindicated. They are currently suing the state for redress.


by Michael H. Fox

The Crime On February 16, 2004, a chilly, cloudy evening in South Osaka, four youths hanging out at the McDonald's in Tezukayama espied a target: A middle aged man strolling alone. The boys eyes sharpened as their prey drew nearer. In a flash, they attacked. Throwing their victim to the ground and removing his wallet, they fled the scene 63,000 yen richer. The crime is one in a rising trend of assaults called oyaji-gari , literally, "middle-aged man captures." Middle aged men make easy targets for angry youth, offering little resistance and often possessing large amounts of cash. But this victim was no ordinary salaried man. The assailants had unknowingly robbed the Honorable Torigoe Kenji, chief judge of the Osaka District Court. In the fracas, he suffered a bruised pelvis and other maladies which required convalescence of three months. The judge provided few details about his attackers. They appeared to be junior high school students, of medium build, and between 170~175 centimeters in height. The most violent of the group wore a red jacket. A Weapon of Last Resort The police immediately began an intensive investigation. But after three months, exhaustive efforts had not produced any suspects. Letting such a case go cold was not an option: in Japanese society, face is everything. Fearing both public scrutiny and judicial criticism, the police resorted to the weapon of last resort: the pried confession. Teens with a previous history of juvenile delinquency were rounded up and forced into the interrogation room. The confessions poured out. One 18 year old youth, seized in Shiga-prefecture, honestly denied any knowledge of the crime, for that matter, anything about the Tezukayama area. Police quickly changed his mind. He would later testify in court that detectives, "pulled my hair, slapped my face, kicked my knees, and pushed my head against the wall screaming and shouting verbal abuse." After enduring five hours of non-stop intimidation, he confessed because "the detective was choking me and I was afraid of dying." He spit out a few names of acquaintances who supposedly "collaborated" in the attack. One of these names was his own friend, Okamoto Taishi, (aged 26). Okamoto could probably author a sequel to, "When bad things happen to good people." His mother died when he was in junior high school. After a fall out with his father, he moved out and become independent at an early age. And while many young people in similar circumstances get deeper into trouble, Okamoto moved in the other direction. He became a friend to kids on the street, treating many to meals, offering advice, and even allowing the use of his apartment. Many of these kids formed friendships and called themselves the Okamoto Gakkyu, the Class of Okamoto. Unexpected Evidence. Some interesting evidence emerged in this case. A surveillance camera perched on the fence of a local home captured a split second of the culprit's escape from the scene. At 70 meters, the distance was too far and the action too fast for facial identification. But the camera did speak of the culprits physiognomy. A forensic investigation, carried out by Professor Chihara Kunihiro of Sentan Kagaku Gijitsu University in Nara, confirmed the heights of the attackers to be between 172 and 174 centimeters, and of medium build, reaffirming the judge's early description. It is difficult to understand then why Soh Atsushi, a Japan born Korean was arrested and is being tried as an assailant. Named during a violent interrogation, Soh is 29 years old and stands at184 centimeters. Broad and muscular, his physical features automatically render disqualification as a suspect in this case. More Violence After being summoned, Soh appeared voluntarily at a police station to answer questions about the case. He repeatedly denied any connection or knowledge of the incident. Deciding that he had given the police enough of time, and suffering from intense thirst after being denied drink in the hot June weather, he stood up to leave. He was forced back into a chair and commanded to wait. Minutes later he was handed a warrant and arrested. What followed was terrifying. Soh explains vividly. “When I refused to confess "I was punched, kicked, and held face down on the floor while the police pulled my hair." A remedy was offered, "Confess and things will get better." Soh was astounded, "they didn't even mention that the victim was a judge until three days later. And then I became 'an enemy of the state.'" Reality of Incarceration While most developed countries of the world afford a minimum of rights to the criminally accused, Japan remains far outside the fold. Incarceration in Japan is a type of psychological violence. Bail can be withheld to prevent the accused from destroying evidence, threatening witnesses, or fleeing. Though these conditions seemed hardly applicable, both Okamoto and Soh were denied bail. And because they did not confess, Soh and Okamoto were vindictively subjected to the harshest conditions: sekken kinshi--isolation from outside contacts. Visits and letters from friends or family were prohibited. But worst of all, they were held in solitary confinement and prohibited from interacting with other inmates. "You sit in your room, stare at the walls, and begin to go crazy," Soh explains. "You are allowed to read, but your only interaction is with guards and the occasional visit from a lawyer. The food stinks. Bathing is allowed twice a week, and 20 people use the same tiny tub. The water turns a grotesque shade of brown." And what of exercise? " You are allowed a tiny exercise yard for ten minutes twice a week. They hand you a tennis ball, and like a little dog, tell you 'go play'" THE TRIAL Trials in Japan proceed at a snail's pace. Most defendants appear in court once or twice a month for two hours at a time. Some inmates spend more time in detention awaiting the conclusion of their case than the actual sentence carries. But considering the status of the victim, the court delayed other matters and marched forward in this trial. Marathon court sessions of seven and eight hours a day were held several times a month. The purpose was to convict the perpetrators and lift a burden from the shoulders of the Osaka police. But with zero evidence and witnesses testifying to confessions after beatings, even the Pavlovian judges overseeing the case (99.6% of defendants are found guilty) began to have doubts. In December, they began to allow Soh and Okamoto family visits. By February, both were allowed out on bail. JUSTICE COMING? It seems that justice is not too far off. The trial has been postponed to allow the prosecution to study the video of the escaping culprits. In the probable case that both Soh and Okamoto are found innocent, attorney Naoki Umikawa intends to file suit against the police. "Four minors aged between 13 and 17 were interrogated, threatened, and beaten into confessing," he explains. "Some still remain in custody, charged with this crime and others. Police behavior in this case have been violent and reprehensible. I want them to atone for their actions. " Historically, the chance for victory against the forces of law and order is miniscule. The courts are protective of police and prosecutors, whom their consider as colleagues in the Ministry of Justice. Law enforcement officials going to jail in this country for malfeasance is practically unheard of. But in cases where youths have been beaten into confession (see insert), there are some precedents for redress.. In a society that puts face above all, putting public villains on the stand is a step toward justice. Sidebar: Problematic Policing: Youth and the Law Soka Case (Saitama, 1985) Six boys, all 13-15 years old, were charged with murder, rape, attempted rape,and indecent assault. All confessed, were found guilty, and spent time in the nation's strict reformatories. The Supreme Court, reviewing forensic evidence, overturned a high court civil decision ordering the boy's parents to pay compensation to the murdered girl's family. The criminal convictions have not been reversed and the case may be reopened in the future. Kaizuka Case (Osaka,1979) Five men, four of whom were minors at the time of the crime, confessed to rape and murder. All pleaded innocent in court, but were sentenced to serve between ten and 18 years in prison. After finding that police used undue "physical and psychological coercion," the court declared four of the defendants innocent in 1986, the fifth in 1989. Ten years later, the defendants were awarded ¥12.6 million in compensation. Sakakibara Case (Hyogo,1997) The decapitated head of a mentally retarded boy was left on the gate of a Kobe junior high school. The alleged killer sent well written manifestos to a local newspaper signed "Sakakibara Seito (Student)" and "Shool Killer"(in English) accosting the police. Police later arrested a 14 year old boy whom, isolated from his family, gave a full confession. The boy spent seven years undergoing treatment in a medical reformatory despite no history of illness, and according to public announcements, has been released.


Court acquits teen over attacking judge

OSAKA — A family court in Osaka decided Monday not to punish an 18-year-old man, overturning an earlier decision by the court that had decided to send the minor to a reformatory for assaulting the then chief judge of the Osaka District Court for robbery on a street in 2004. "There is no evidence of delinquency," the family court said. The man, a part-time worker, is the third person to be acquitted in this case, in which five were arrested. On March 20 last year, the Osaka District Court acquitted two adults tried separately in the assault. But three days later, the family court found the minor "guilty" in the case. In May this year, however, the Osaka High Court overturned the family court's decision on the minor and sent the case back to the family court, saying, "It is suspected that it has misidentified important facts." On Monday, the family court's presiding judge, Yoshitaka Onishi, said, "There is no evidence that the minor attacked the chief judge with the accomplices." The family court dismissed offer of proof which had been requested by the prosecution side. The minor and other four were arrested by the police for attacking the then chief judge of the Osaka District Court, Kenji Torigoe, who has since retired, when he was on his way home in the city of Osaka on Feb 16, 2004, and fractured his pelvis. They were also accused of taking 63,000 yen from him. (Kyodo News)


Teen to be tried for 5th time over alleged assault of Osaka judge

The Osaka High Court overruled a lower court decision Tuesday and ordered the Osaka Family Court to resume the juvenile trial of an 18-year-old who is accused of assaulting the then chief judge of the Osaka District Court on a street in Osaka in 2004. It is the second time the high court has overturned a lower court ruling in the case, which involves four other people, and paves the way for the defendant to be tried for a fifth time, following two previous trials at both the family court and at the high court. The trial involves an attack on the chief judge of the Osaka District Court on a street in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward on Feb. 16, 2004, when he was on his way home. In the attack, the judge had 63,000 yen in cash stolen and suffered serious injuries including a fractured pelvis. Within four months of the attack, two adults and three minors were arrested or taken into custody for allegedly attacking the judge. The three teens included the defendant in question, who is now 18 years old, as well as his elder brother, now 20.


High court dismisses appeal against 2 men
acquitted of robbing judge

Taishi Okamoto, 30(left) and Atsushi So(right) , 33,

OSAKA -- The Osaka High Court has acquitted two men of robbing and injuring a judge after dismissing an appeal by prosecutors against the lower court ruling that found them not guilty.

Taishi Okamoto, 30, and Atsushi So, 33, both company employees, were acquitted of robbery resulting in bodily injury over a case in which the then head of the Osaka District Court was assaulted by several young men in Osaka's Sumiyoshi-ku in February 2004.

"There is room for reasonable doubt about recognizing the defendants as perpetrators," Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kataoka said in handing down the ruling.

The Osaka District Court had earlier acquitted the two men of the charges, but prosecutors had appealed the decision.

The latest acquittal by the high court is expected to influence the hearings of two other men who are being tried over the case. In a juvenile trial, the Osaka Family Court has ruled the two other men, who were minors at the time of the incident, are not guilty, but prosecutors have appealed the decision.

The ruling acknowledged the alibi of an 18-year-old man -- who was 13 years old at the time of the 2004 incident and was accused of attacking the judge -- that he was seeing a girl at his home for the approximate two hours that included the time when the incident happened.

"The other men's confessions that the defendants were involved in the case together with the then 13-year-old boy have poor probative value," the ruling said.

Takashi Kobayashi, deputy chief prosecutor at the Osaka High Public Prosecutors Office, said, "It is extremely regrettable that our claims were not accepted."

In the Feb. 16, 2004, incident, Kenji Torigoe, then head of the Osaka District Court, was robbed of about 63,000 yen in cash and suffered broken bones in his back on a street in Osaka's Sumiyoshi-ku.

Osaka Prefectural Police determined that the judge was attacked by a group of five and held two men and three teenage boys over the incident. All five pleaded not guilty.


Teen cleared of attack on head of Osaka District Court

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a family court decision that cleared a teen over an attack on the head of the Osaka District Court in 2004. In its decision dated July 11, the 3rd petty bench of the top court supported an earlier decision by the Osaka Family Court not to take action against the teen, who was aged 14 at the time of the attack. The family court's decision was the equivalent of a not-guilty ruling. Earlier, the Osaka High Court had scrapped the family court's decision, but the Supreme Court accepted a second appeal by the teen, overturning the high court's decision. The top court's decision brings the case to a close. At first, the Osaka Family Court decided that the teen should be sent to a reformatory. However, the Osaka High Court annulled the family court's decision, saying there were doubts about the credibility of the teen's testimony. When the case was sent back to the family court, it made a decision not to take action against the teen. However, the high court again scrapped the family court's decision. In its initial decision, the high court had pointed out that a person of large build who was said to be part of the group of attackers did not appear on security camera footage, and cited this as one of the reasons for scrapping the decision to send the teen to a reformatory. When the case was sent back to the family court, public prosecutors presented a DVD re-enacting a getaway, and requested that it be examined as evidence, but the family court did not accept it, and made a decision not to take action against the youth. However, the high court then annulled the family court's decision, saying there was a possibility that reexamination of the DVD could overturn conclusions made in the case. In the latest decision, the Supreme Court sided with the family court. "There is no possibility of the conclusions being overturned, and taking into consideration the nature of juvenile incidents, in which early and quick processing of cases is desired, the family court's measures in its retrial were within reasonable scope of its jurisdiction," the Supreme Court said. Five people were arrested or taken into custody over the alleged attack. Two adult men in the case were found not guilty. The teen's older brother was sent to a reformatory, but later the Osaka Family Court decided not to put him in custody, prompting prosecutors to appeal. Another teen aged 13 at the time was sent to a self-support facility, but he has filed a lawsuit against the government seeking compensation, saying he was forced to make a confession.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 大阪地裁所長襲撃:少年の「無罪」確定 再抗告審の最高裁

 大阪市住吉区の路上で04年2月、大阪地裁所長(当時)が襲われ重傷を負った事件で、強盗傷害の非行事実に問われた当時14歳の少年(19)について、最高裁第3小法廷(田原睦夫裁判長)は11日付の決定で、刑事裁判の「無罪」に当たる不処分とした大阪家裁決定を支持した。大阪高裁が家裁決定を取り消していたが、小法廷は少年側の再抗告を認め、高裁の判断を覆した。これで、少年の不処分が確定した。  少年に対しては(1)大阪家裁が少年審判で中等少年院送致を決定(2)大阪高裁が「自白の信用性に疑問がある」と取り消し(3)差し戻し審で家裁が不処分を決定(4)高裁が再び家裁決定を取り消し--という異例の展開をたどった。  1回目の高裁決定は、逃走する犯人グループとみられる防犯カメラの映像に、グループの一員とされた大柄の人物がいないことを少年院送致取り消しの理由の一つに挙げたため、差し戻し審で検察側は逃走を再現したDVDの証拠調べを求めた。家裁は認めなかったが、高裁は「DVDを調べれば結論が覆る可能性があった」と再び審理を差し戻す決定をしていた。  小法廷は「覆る可能性は認められず、早期・迅速な処理が要請される少年事件の特質を考慮すると、差し戻し審の家裁の措置は合理的な裁量の範囲内」と指摘し、不処分決定を支持した。田原裁判長は補足意見で「少年事件では、捜査機関の意向に迎合し、客観的証拠と矛盾した自白をする危険性が高いことを如実に示す一事例」と指摘した。  事件では、逮捕・補導された5人のうち成人男性2人の無罪が確定。少年の兄(当時16歳)は少年院収容後、大阪家裁で「再審無罪」に当たる保護処分の取り消し決定を受け、検察側が抗告した。当時13歳の少年は児童自立支援施設に送致されたが、「自白を強要された」と国などに賠償を求め提訴している。【北村和巳】


地裁所長襲撃:強盗致傷罪の2被告、再び無罪 大阪高裁



2008417日 2040分(最終更新 417日 2133分)









 【ことば】大阪地裁所長襲撃事件 04年2月16日夜、大阪市住吉区の路上で発生。当時の鳥越健治所長が現金約6万3000円を奪われ、腰の骨を折る重傷を負った。大阪府警は見張り役を含め5人組の犯行と断定。当時29~13歳の成人2人、少年3人を逮捕・補導した。5人全員が無罪を主張している。




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毎日新聞によると、一方、大阪地検による勾留や 起訴、家裁送致の判断については、「誘導による自白であると認識するのは困難で、当時は犯罪の容疑について相当な理由が存在した」として、違法性は無いと した。また、児童相談所の対応についても、「取り調べに立ち会うこともあり、13歳(元)少年の違法な取り調べを放置していたとは言えない」とした。