An apology in Japan

“I want an apology from the police and prosecutors,” was what Toshikazu Sugaya, 62, said after winning freedom from what DNA tests proved had been an unjustified 17-year imprisonment in a murder he did not commit.
Slim and soft-spoken, Sugaya looks more like a gentle grandfather than any stereotype of a murderer of a 4-year-old girl.
He is drawing an outburst of public empathy in Japan, a nation where nearly 100 percent of criminal trials end in convictions but Sugaya is just the first retrial case in 22 years.
Since 1992, more than 215 people in the U.S. have been exonerated, including 16 who were at one time serving death sentences, according to the Innocence Project.
For federal cases, the wrongfully convicted can seek compensation of $100,000 a year for each year of incarceration for those on death row, and $50,000 a year for each year in prison for those not on death row, the non-profit legal clinic says.
But for state cases, half of the states have no compensation statutes.
In Japan, Sugaya, for now, wants an apology _ at least one clear vindication in this culture where a heartfelt apology can get bigger than life.
To make it even more profoundly Japanese, he also demanded the authorities apologize to the dead.
His parents died while he was in prison.
He will visit their grave, and he would like the police and prosecutors to also go and offer their apologies, he said on nationally televised news.
Sugaya, a kindergarten bus driver, had been sentenced to life in prison in 1993.
What struck him the most about the city landscape after he got out were all those stores, Sugaya said, while not being sure exactly what they were.
“This shouldn’t be dismissed as a mistake,” he said. “I want my life back.”