A Japanese district court denied a retrial Wednesday for a 95-year-old woman who served 10 years in prison for the 1979 murder of her brother-in-law in Kagoshima Prefecture.
It was the fourth attempt by Ayako Haraguchi to clear her name, with Presiding judge Masato Nakata saying that the new evidence presented by the defense was "not clear" enough to acquit her.
Two previous requests for a retrial were approved by district courts but later rejected by upper courts. Haraguchi's lawyers said they will prepare to appeal the Wednesday decision to the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court.
The decision by the Kagoshima District Court was made after examining whether Kunio Nakamura, 42, died accidentally and not by strangulation as recognized by a 1980 district court ruling, as well as the credibility of her relatives' confessions.
Haraguchi was arrested in October 1979, along with three other family members including her husband at the time, on suspicion of strangling Nakamura with a towel and abandoning his body in a cattle barn beside his home in the town of Osaki earlier that month.
In Wednesday's decision, Haraguchi's former husband, who was sentenced to eight years in prison and has since died, was also denied a posthumous retrial.
In the 1980 ruling, the district court found Haraguchi guilty of killing Nakamura on the grounds that her sister-in-law said Haraguchi proposed the murder, suggesting she had been unhappy about Nakamura's conduct. Her sentence was finalized in 1981.
Haraguchi has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with no evidence presented by the prosecution that directly linked her to the murder.
She filed her first request for a retrial in 1995 after fully serving her 10-year term in 1990. The district court granted the request but it was overturned by a high court.
Her third retrial request was granted by the district court and the ruling was upheld by a high court, but the Supreme Court rejected the lower court decisions in 2019, saying that the previous testimonies were trustworthy.
In the fourth request filed in March 2020, her lawyers submitted new evidence claiming that Nakamura had died as a result of an accidental fall into a ditch earlier in the evening while he was intoxicated.
The evidence included a forensic report reexamined by an emergency physician based on photos taken at the autopsy and previous trial statements by the autopsy doctor.
It also covered analysis by experts in psychology and information science of residents' statements that corroborated the time of the murder. The proceedings were concluded in January this year.