The Supreme Court of Japan recently accepted its first-ever amicus (“friend of the court”) brief from an American legal organization, and the issue at hand was false confessions. The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University filed the brief in the case of Masaru Okunishi, who has been on Japan’s death row for nearly four decades. He was convicted of poisoning his wife and four other women but has proclaimed his innocence all along. Japanese law enforcement officials say Okunishi confessed after 49 hours of interrogation.
The legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Steven Drizin, told the National Law Journal that we have learned a great deal about false confessions from the 216 DNA exonerations in the United States, and that many of these lessons apply to Japan.
In recent years, the Japanese criminal justice system has also been rocked with numerous false confessions, Drizin noted, explaining that these false confessions have been blamed on Japan's excessive reliance on confession evidence to gain convictions. Japanese law enforcement authorities, who have a 99 percent conviction rate, rely on exceedingly long interrogations and psychological coercion to obtain confessions, he added.
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. (National Law Journal, 05/1/08)
More than 25 percent of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing involved a false confession or admission.
Review some of these false confession cases here