Sadamichi Hirasawa

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Sadamichi Hirasawa Sadamichi Hirasawa.jpg
Sadamichi Hirasawa

Sadamichi Hirasawa(平沢 貞通,Hirasawa Sadamichi, February 18, 1892 May 10, 1987) was a Japanese tempera painter. [1] He was convicted of mass poisoning and sentenced to death, though he is believed to have been falsely charged. Due to strong suspicions that he was innocent, no justice minister ever signed his death warrant. [2] [3]

Japan Constitutional monarchy in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Tempera painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium

Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, usually glutinous material such as egg yolk. Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the first century CE still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting. A paint consisting of pigment and binder commonly used in the United States as poster paint is also often referred to as "tempera paint," although the binders in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint.

Painting practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.


Teigin case

Site of the "Teikoku Bank Incident" Shiina-Machi branch of the Teikoku Bank.JPG
Site of the "Teikoku Bank Incident"

On January 26, 1948, a man calling himself an epidemiologist arrived in a branch of the Imperial Bank (Teikoku Ginkō, aka Teigin) at Shiinamachi, a suburb of Toshima, Tokyo, before closing time. He explained that he was a public health official sent by US occupation authorities who had orders to inoculate the staff against a sudden outbreak of dysentery. He gave all sixteen people present a pill and a few drops of liquid. Those present drank the liquid he gave, which was later thought to be a cyanide solution. When all were incapacitated, the robber took some money lying on the desks, which amounted to 160,000 yen (about $2,000 US at the time), but left the majority behind, leaving his motive unknown. Ten of the victims died at the scene (one was a child of an employee) and two others died while hospitalized.

The terms inoculation, vaccination, and immunization are often used synonymously to refer to artificial induction of immunity against various infectious diseases. However, there are some important historical and current differences. In English medicine, inoculation referred only to the practice of variolation until the very early 1800s. When Edward Jenner introduced smallpox vaccine in 1798, this was initially called cowpox inoculation or vaccine inoculation. Soon, to avoid confusion, smallpox inoculation continued to be referred to as variolation and cowpox inoculation was referred to as vaccination. Then, in 1891, Louis Pasteur proposed that the terms vaccine and vaccination should be extended to include the new protective procedures being developed. Immunization refers to the use of all vaccines but also extends to the use of antitoxin, which contains preformed antibody such as to diphtheria or tetanus exotoxins. Inoculation is now more or less synonymous in nontechnical usage with injection and the like, and questions along the lines of "Have you had your flu injection/vaccination/inoculation/immunization?" should not cause confusion. The focus is on what is being given and why, not the literal meaning of the technique used.

Dysentery inflammation of the intestine causing diarrhea with blood

Dysentery is an inflammatory disease of the intestine, especially of the colon, which always results in severe diarrhea and abdominal pains. Other symptoms may include fever and a feeling of incomplete defecation. The disease is caused by several types of infectious pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Cyanide any chemical compound with cyanide anion

A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the group C≡N. This group, known as the cyano group, consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom.

Arrest and trial

Hirasawa was caught by the police due to the Japanese habit of exchanging business cards with personal details. There had been two other extremely similar cases of attempted and actual theft at banks via the use of poison in the weeks and months before the robbery. In all cases the poisoner, a lone male, left a business card. The poisoner used a card which was marked "Jirō Yamaguchi" in one of the two incidents, but it was later found that said Yamaguchi did not exist: the card was a fake. The poisoner also used a real card which was marked "Shigeru Matsui" (of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Department of Disease Prevention) in another of the two incidents. The original owner of the card was found to have an alibi. Matsui told the police that he had exchanged cards with 593 people, but of these, 100 were of the type used in the poisoning incidents, of which eight remained in his possession. Matsui recorded the time and place of the business card exchange on the back of cards he received so the police set out to trace the remaining 92 cards. 62 cards were retrieved and their receivers cleared, a further 22 were deemed to have been irrelevant to the case. One of the remaining 8 cards was received by Hirasawa. The police were led to arrest Hirasawa because

Police Law enforcement body

A police service is a constituted body of persons empowered by a state to enforce the law, to protect people and property, and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their powers include the power of arrest and the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated with police services of a sovereign state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. Police forces are often defined as being separate from military or other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie are military units charged with civil policing. The police force is usually a public sector service, funded through taxes.

Business card card bearing business information about a company or individual

Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual. They are shared during formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card typically includes the giver's name, company or business affiliation and contact information such as street addresses, telephone number(s), fax number, e-mail addresses and website. Before the advent of electronic communication business cards might also include telex details. Now they may include social media addresses such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Traditionally many cards were simple black text on white stock; today a professional business card will sometimes include one or more aspects of striking visual design.

  1. He could not produce the card he had received from Matsui. Hirasawa claimed to have lost the business card, together with his wallet, due to his having been the victim of pickpocketing.
  2. A similar amount of money to that stolen from the bank was found in Hirasawa's possession, the origin of which he refused to divulge. The origin of the money is unknown to this day (though some, such as the crime fiction novelist Seichō Matsumoto, suggested Hirasawa received it by drawing pornographic pictures, a side business that would have been detrimental to Hirasawa's reputation as an artist).
  3. Hirasawa's alibi of having been taking a stroll in the vicinity of the crime scene could be neither verified nor substantiated.
  4. Hirasawa was identified as the poisoner by several witnesses (but only by two survivors, and see picture below).
  5. He confessed to having been involved in four previous cases of bank fraud (recanted together with his subsequent confession).

He was arrested on August 21, 1948. After police interrogation, which allegedly involved torture, Hirasawa confessed, but then recanted soon after. His later defence against his confession was based on partial insanity, alleging that he had been troubled with Korsakoff's syndrome (as a result of rabies inoculation) and so his confession was not reliable. The court, however, disagreed and Hirasawa was given the death penalty in 1950. Until 1949, a confession was solid evidence under the law, even if the police tortured a person to extract said confession. The Supreme Court of Japan upheld the death sentence in 1955. His attorneys tried to have the sentence revoked, submitting 18 pleas for retrial over the following years.

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is a government-sanctioned practice whereby a person is killed by the state as a punishment for a crime. The sentence that someone be punished in such a manner is referred to as a death sentence, whereas the act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution. Crimes that are punishable by death are known as capital crimes or capital offences, and they commonly include offences such as murder, mass murder, terrorism, treason, espionage, offenses against the State, such as attempting to overthrow government, piracy, drug trafficking, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but may include a wide range of offences depending on a country. Etymologically, the term capital in this context alluded to execution by beheading.

Supreme Court of Japan supreme court

The Supreme Court of Japan, located in Hayabusachō, Chiyoda, Tokyo, is the highest court in Japan. It has ultimate judicial authority to interpret the Japanese constitution and decide questions of national law. It has the power of judicial review; that is, it can declare Acts of the National Diet, local assemblies, and administrative actions, to be unconstitutional.

Doubt over guilty verdict

Japanese police made the montage picture of the criminal, but his face was clearly not similar to Hirasawa. Teigin case.jpg
Japanese police made the montage picture of the criminal, but his face was clearly not similar to Hirasawa.

He was sentenced to death, but there was originally no conclusive evidence. In addition, although 40 employees saw the crimes, there were only two people who identified him as the criminal. [4] Seichō Matsumoto presumed that the true culprit was a former member of Unit 731 in his books A story of the Teikoku Bank Incident in 1959 and The Black Fog of Japan in 1960. Matsumoto also suspected that "the money of unknown origin" came from selling pornographic drawings. Kei Kumai protested Hirasawa's conviction by his film The Long Death in 1964. [5]

Seichō Matsumoto Japanese writer

Seichō Matsumoto was a Japanese writer.

Unit 731 biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army

Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Imperial Japan. Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo.

Kei Kumai was a Japanese film director from Azumino, Nagano prefecture. After his studies in literature at Shinshu University, he began work as a director's assistant.

Successive Ministers of Justice in Japan did not sign his death warrant, so the death sentence was never carried out. Even Isaji Tanaka, who on 13 October 1967 announced in front of the press that he had signed the death warrants of 23 prisoners in one go, did not sign Hirasawa's death warrant, stating that he doubted Hirasawa's guilt.

The Minister of Justice is the member of the Cabinet of Japan in charge of the Ministry of Justice.

The poison was regarded as the readily obtainable potassium cyanide in Hirasawa's trial. [6] One of the reasons given to doubt Hirasawa's guilt is because the victims' symptoms were clearly different from potassium cyanide poisoning, which is rapid. [7] Keio University's contemporary investigation claimed that the true poison may have been acetone cyanohydrin, a military poison deliberately designed to be slow-acting, which Hirasawa could not have obtained. [8]

Death in jail

Hirasawa remained in prison as a condemned criminal for the next 32 years. [9] He spent his time painting and writing his autobiography My Will: the Teikoku Bank Case(遺書 帝銀事件).

In 1981, Makoto Endo became the leader of Hirasawa's lawyers. Besides the case, he took part in controversial trials such as that of Norio Nagayama. [10] The defense claimed that statute of limitations for his death penalty ran out in 1985. The death penalty has a 30-year statute of limitations under the Criminal Code of Japan, [9] and so Endo appealed for his release. However, the Japanese court refused this argument, pointing out that the statute only applies in the case if a death row inmate escapes from prison and evades capture for 30 years. [11] Japanese courts judge that the punishment begins when the minister signs the death warrant, which had never been done. [9] His health deteriorated in 1987. On April 30, 1987, Amnesty International petitioned the Japanese government to release him, but Hirasawa died of pneumonia in a prison hospital on May 10.

Bids for a posthumous retrial

Even after Hirasawa's death, his son by adoption, Takehiko Hirasawa, tried to clear his name. Takehiko was the son of one of Sadamichi's supporters; he became the painter's adopted son while in university to take up the task of getting a retrial for Sadamichi, as his relatives were reluctant to pursue the case due to social prejudice. Takehiko also worked to recover several of Sadamichi's lost paintings and held exhibitions of his work. He and his lawyers submitted a 19th plea for retrial; Sadamichi's brain damage was also proved. [12] As of 2008, his lawyers had submitted new evidence to attempt to prove Hirasawa's innocence. [13]

In September 2013, Takehiko Hirasawa died alone at his home in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, aged 54; he had lived there with his natural mother until her death at age 83 the previous December. His body was only found on 16 October by several retrial supporters who had worried about not hearing from him in some time. According to supporters, the pressures and uncertainties surrounding the reopening of the case, together with his mother's death, had caused Takehiko to periodically display signs of instability and doubts about whether he could continue. He continued to persist with his objective of getting a posthumous retrial, though, writing after his mother's death on a website about the "Teigin Incident":

"It was her wish and mine and my late father’s to mark in history that Sadamichi Hirasawa is innocent. I will continue this struggle for years to come.” [14]

At the time of Takehiko's death, he and his lawyers had assembled a team of psychologists to reexamine the witness accounts and investigation process from the trial, to determine if the evidence was credible by present standards. They had been scheduled to submit their position papers to the Tokyo High Court by the end of 2013, ahead of the court verdict on the retrial petition. [14]

On 4 December 2013, the Tokyo High Court announced it would drop the plea for a posthumous retrial for Sadamichi Hirasawa following his adopted son's death. As a result, the court effectively declared the case closed, unless other members of the Hirasawa family wish to pursue a retrial. [15]

Based on the Hirasawa case is a 2009 novel, entitled Occupied City, by English author David Peace, who was long a resident in Japan. The case is also referenced in Ian Fleming's 11th James Bond novel, You Only Live Twice (1964), though embellished and exaggerated.

See also

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  2. "Sadamichi Hirasawa Is Dead; Was on Death Row 32 Years". The New York Times. 1987-05-11. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
  3. "19th bid to clear late murderer's name". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2003-07-12. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
  4. "Noose or Pneumonia?". Time. 1963-02-15. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  5. "Obituary - Kei Kumai". Reed Business Information. 2007-05-24. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  6. "Fight to clear mass-killer's name unending". The Japan Times. 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  7. "Experts doubt Teigin Incident verdict". The Japan Times. 2006-11-26. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
  8. Unit 731: Testimony Google Books . via Tuttle Publishing. pp. 119-120 by Hal Gold (1996) ISBN   4-900737-39-9
  9. 1 2 3 "Japan Hanging on to Death Penalty". South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre. 2003-04-23. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
  10. "Endo, chief lawyer in 'Teigin Incident,' dies at 71". CNET Networks. 2002-01-28. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  11. "Court Refuses to Free A Death Row Japanese". The New York Times. 1985-05-31. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  12. Shigeko Segawa (2008-02-25). "Death-row inmate had brain damage". Asahi Shimbun . Retrieved 2008-03-14.[ permanent dead link ]
  13. Hirano, Keiji, (Kyodo News), "25 years after Teigin convict's death, exoneration efforts continue", Japan Times , 8 June 2012, p. 3
  14. 1 2 Hirano, Keiji, (Kyodo News), "Death of inmate’s adoptive son ends ‘Teigin’ retrial bid", Japan Times , 16 October 2013
  15. Hirano, Keiji, (Kyodo News), "Court calls end to plea seeking Teigin retrial", Japan Times , 4 December 2013

Further reading