A woman who has served more than 20 years of a life term declared her innocence Monday during a retrial over the death of her 11-year-old daughter in a 1995 house fire.
“I did not do it,” Keiko Aoki, 52, told the Osaka District Court. “Neither did I conspire (in the girl’s death). I am innocent.”
Aoki is set to be acquitted in August along with her partner Tatsuhiro Boku, 50, as prosecutors have decided not to pursue fresh convictions.
But the prosecutors did not ask for Aoki to be acquitted in the retrial, just as they did not in Boku’s retrial on Thursday.
Aoki told the court she had falsely confessed to her daughter’s murder as she “felt like dying” after a prolonged interrogation by an investigator who continued to shout at her.
Lawyers for Aoki told the court they doubted her confessions were made voluntarily and requested that the court remove them as evidence, while arguing the fire that killed Aoki’s daughter Megumi could have started accidentally.
In an apparent move to rebut prosecutors’ claim during Boku’s trial that the police had not acted unlawfully during the investigation, the lawyers also disclosed to reporters before Aoki’s retrial a portion of an Osaka police diary detailing how investigators spoke forcefully and loudly during interrogations that lasted for about 10 hours each day, beginning in the morning.
Aoki and Boku were arrested in September 1995 on suspicion of lighting a fire that killed Megumi at their Osaka home in July of that year. A life insurance policy of 15 million yen ($141,000) had been taken out for the sixth grader.
The couple were convicted by the district court in 1999 based on Boku’s confession that he spread gasoline inside a garage and set it on fire with a lighter.
The couple were released from prison in October last year after the Osaka High Court upheld a lower court ruling granting them retrials, saying the garage blaze could have been accidental based on experiments conducted by both prosecutors and defense lawyers.