A 61-year-old Japanese businessman, acquitted in his own country of murdering his wife, committed suicide in a Los Angeles jail cell, according to sources at the Los Angeles police headquarters.
Kazuyoshi Miura hanged himself sometime Friday night, said an officer at the Parker Center police headquarters, where Miura was being held.
"We were notified late last night that he had been found dead in his cell,'' District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told City News Service on Saturday morning.
Miura, who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport early Friday accompanied by Los Angeles police detectives, was arrested in the U.S. commonwealth of Saipan Feb. 21 and has been in custody ever since. He was to remain in a city jail cell until his arraignment next week.
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On Thursday, prosecutors with the District Attorney's Office filed papers, asking that a murder charge be reinstated against Miura.
"We fully support that request,'' police Capt. Denis Cremins said. "Detectives who have been involved in this investigation have no doubt that Mr. Miura is responsible for his wife's death.''
Miura had been charged with murder and conspiracy in the slaying, but Torrance Superior Court Judge Steven Van Sicklen ruled on Sept. 26 that trying Miura for murder would constitute double-jeopardy, since he had already been tried on that charge in Japan.
"However, because the defendant was not convicted or acquitted of the crime of conspiracy in Japan, the current prosecution on that charge may go forward,'' Van Sicklen wrote in an 18-page ruling issued after four court hearings that began in April.
But in a 25-page motion filed yesterday, Deputy District Attorneys Ricardo Ocampo and Alan Jackson contended that Van Sicklen misinterpreted the law.
They argued that the section of law under which Miura was claiming double-jeopardy does not recognize convictions or acquittals outside of the United States. Because of that, "Miura may only bar the current prosecution for murder if he can prove a former conviction or acquittal in a state or territory of the United States," the prosecutors wrote.
"He cannot do so. Thus, the murder charge in count 1 must be reinstated."
Miura was scheduled to be arraigned on the conspiracy charge on Tuesday. He could have faced 25 years to life in state prison.
Miura's wife was shot Nov. 18, 1981, in the 200 block of Fremont Avenue, while visiting the city with her husband, who was treated for a bullet wound to the leg.
Miura was found guilty in Japan in 1994 of his wife's murder but the conviction was reversed and "an acquittal was entered by the High Court in Japan," according to court papers filed by his Los Angeles attorney, Mark Geragos, in March.
In a statement released in May 1988 after the murder and conspiracy charges were filed in Los Angeles, prosecutors alleged Miura collected about $750,000 from life insurance policies on his wife.
Prosecutors also allege Miura "solicited five different people to murder his wife," including the person who actually shot her.
Another one of those five conspirators struck her on the head with a metal object in a room at the New Otani hotel in downtown Los Angeles in August 1981, just three months before she was shot, according to the prosecution's court papers.