Disturbing good news of the day: 62-year old Toshikazu Sugaya of Tochigi Prefecture was released from prison after serving 17+ years of a life sentence, when new DNA tests proved that he wasn’t the perpetrator after all. Sugaya was convicted of killing a 4-year old girl in December 1991. He claims he was threatened, beaten, and intimidated by the detectives on the case, who told him he would be better off just making a confession. Likewise, during the trial, Sugaya feared that the detectives would be in the courtroom waiting to pounce on him if he said he was innocent. So he pled guilty, even though he didn’t do it.
Sugaya was released from prison last night, greeted by flowers and a herd of reporters. He plans on heading back to his hometown to see his family. He won’t be able to see all of them, though &mdash his father expired from shock over his son’s conviction, and his mother died a natural death two years ago. The person who actually committed the crime is now free forever under the 15-year statute of limitations. Understandably, Sugaya feels like he was robbed of a huge chunk of his life. He said this to reporters on the scene:
I can never forgive the detectives and prosecutors at that time. I want them to apologize to me, and bring my life back to me.
Japan reinstated the jury system this year, which is great, but we need to make sure there are enough protections in place for the accused so they feel safe standing by their word. No legal system is perfect, I know. But 17 years is a long time to atone for something you didn’t do.
The first thing Sugaya wants to do with his long-deserved freedom is eat sushi and sing karaoke.