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Japan Supreme Court rejects retrial for wine murders

Japan’s Supreme Court has rejected a 10th retrial request to review the murders of five women poisoned with wine in 1961.

Japan Supreme Court rejects retrial for wine murders

Masaru Okunishi was convicted of the murder of five women, including his wife, after they were poisoned with wine in 1961. Twelve other people were hospitalised as a result of the poisoning.

In 1961, Okunishi initially told investigators he had laced the wine, which was served at a community meeting in the city of Nabari, with pesticides. He said his motive was to to “end a love triangle” with his wife and another woman.

However, he retracted the confession prior to his indictment, and the Tsu District Court acquitted Okunishi in 1964, citing a lack of evidence.

But the Nagoya High Court overturned the lower court ruling and sentenced him to death in 1969, a decision the Supreme Court upheld in 1972, according to reporting by The Japan Times.

The 10th retrial request was filed by his sister, Miyoko Oka, after Okunishi died on in 2015 having served 46 years on death row. The defence team said it would be the 94-year-old woman’s last appeal, due to her age. Oka took up the case after her brother died midway through his ninth retrial request.

The latest petition included new evidence in the form of expert report stating that a fragment of the paper seal on the wine bottle’s closure had traces of commercially available glue that differed from that used at the wine’s manufacturing stage. The defence argued that the poison could have been added to the wine and the bottle resealed in a location other than the crime scene.

But the Supreme Court backed the previous ruling that a written expert report did not constitute new evidence.

Okunishi’s case was reopened in 2005 after it was found to be highly possible that the pesticide named was not actually used. However, the decision was nullified after prosecutors filed an objection.


In January, the Supreme Court rejected the special appeal for reopening the case. The defence submitted the special appeal to the Supreme Court after the Nagoya High Court rejected it in March 2022.

Katsuya Uga, an administrative law scholar, was the only one of the five deliberating justices who proposed reopening the case. All four others said they were against holding a retrial.

Death row inmates in Japan are only informed hours ahead of their execution, which takes place in secret.

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