Making a Murderer and Matsumoto Kenji: The truth can be stranger than fiction

9 Mar

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Does this set of circumstances sound familiar?

·         A man from a poor background, with an IQ below 70; a score so low that he has difficulty comprehending what is happening to him.
·         His implication in a serious crime, in which a dominant older relative was the prime suspect.
·         A confession extracted by police after hours of intense interrogation, a confession which was subsequently described as ‘coercive’ by the man’s lawyers.

Well, if you’ve been watching the Netflix documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ you may be thinking of the case of Brendan Dassey who, at the age of 16, confessed to assisting his uncle in a rape and murder after hours of intense police questioning. No lawyer was present during the interrogation, nor was his mother, despite the fact that he was a minor.

Brendan Dassey is not the only young man spending a very long time in prison after being convicted of a crime following a confession extracted in contentious circumstances.

In 1993 Matsumoto Kenji – along with his older brother – was arrested and charged with a double murder in Japan. Kenji has an IQ of between 60 and 70, allegedly caused by Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) which was common in the prefecture in which he was born, around the time he was born. As a result of the condition Kenji suffered from seriously hampered cognitive function.

Amnesty has serious concerns about Kenji’s treatment at the hands of the police. His interrogation has been described at coercive, as officers offered him food if he talked and told him to “be a man” during the interrogation.

Upon learning of a warrant being issued for his arrest, his brother killed himself and Kenji was left to face trial alone. During his trial it was accepted by the court that he was totally dependent upon his brother and was unable to stand up to him. Following his conviction he was sentenced to death, a sentence which has been repeatedly upheld in subsequent appeals.

Unfortunately, Kenji’s mental health has deteriorated significantly on death row, to the point that he has developed a delusional disorder. His lawyers have argued that he is currently unable to communicate or understand information pertinent to his case and they further believe that his isolation has contributed significantly to his deteriorating mental health condition.

Kenji’s case is currently under review for appeal and the Minister of Justice will be the key decision-maker. If you have a moment, please write to him and call for him not to execute Kenji. Visit the Death Penalty page of our website to find out where to write. Thank you.

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