Video: Japanese murder suspect dies

updated 10/20/2008 5:35:41 PM ET 2008-10-20T21:35:41

There's no evidence to date of foul play in the death of a Japanese businessman in a Los Angeles jail cell, police said Monday.

Police have said Kazuyoshi Miura appears to have committed suicide by hanging himself after being brought from Saipan to face a murder conspiracy charge in the death of his wife more than two decades ago.

Deputy Chief Mark Perez, commander of the Office of Professional Standards, responded Monday to a claim by Miura's defense attorney, Mark Geragos, that a private pathologist determined Miura's injuries were consistent with homicide, not suicide.

Geragos said Sunday the pathologist whom he hired found deep tissue injuries on Miura's back that indicated a beating.

He also said a hematoma — a mass of clotted blood — on Miura's larynx could have come from a forced choking. He said the pathologist concluded the injury could not have been caused by a self-inflicted hanging.

"All of this is consistent with a murder," Geragos said.

Miura, 61, was found dead Oct. 10 in a Los Angeles Police Department jail cell. Police said he hanged himself with a piece of his shirt less than 24 hours after he was returned to the United States to stand trial for the murder of his wife 27 years ago.

Geragos said that pathologist David Posey found the ligature marks on Miura's neck were not consistent with hanging.

"They were superficial, not left to right, not diagonal, not consistent with a hanging," the attorney said.

Geragos said that after he received Posey's findings, he called the Los Angeles County Coroner's office and requested a second autopsy but was refused.

Federal investigation sought
Geragos said he placed a call Monday to U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien to request a federal investigation but had no immediate word. Messages left Monday for a coroner's spokesman were also not immediately returned.

"This has all the earmarks of a cover-up and a whitewash," Geragos said.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office is investigating Miura's death, said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. She said she could not comment on Geragos' allegations.

Police said that Miura was last seen alive by an officer who checked his jail cell. Less than 10 minutes later, a detention officer found him hanging "with a ligature around his neck at one end of the bunk bed," according to a police report. Police have said the ligature was made from pieces of Miura's shirt.

The Miura case was a sensation in Japan, where it was known as "the Japanese O.J. case," and it had many bizarre twists.

The case began Nov. 18, 1981, when Miura and his wife Kazumi were shot by unknown assailants in a downtown Los Angeles parking garage after a day of sightseeing. Miura was shot in the leg and recovered, but his wife was shot in the head and died after lingering in a coma for a year.

Miura was convicted in 1994 in Japan of plotting his wife's death and was sentenced to life in prison, but the Japanese Supreme Court reversed the case and acquitted Miura in 2003.

Los Angeles County charged Miura with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in 1988. He was arrested in February during a trip to the U.S. territory of Saipan and extradited to the United States to face a murder conspiracy charge.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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