Brown's lawyers say news leak led to denial of bail request
March 21, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — Bail was denied a fourth time for a Marine major charged with attempting to rape a Philippine woman on Okinawa in November — sparking accusations from his attorneys that an anonymous news leak prejudiced the three judges who rejected the request.
The attorneys’ accusations center on Japanese news reports that cited anonymous sources saying DNA evidence identified saliva from Maj. Michael Brown on the woman’s chest.
The reports were published just prior to Brown’s first court hearing March 13. The day after the hearing, the prosecution provided a list of evidence that made no mention of DNA test results.
“Someone leaked that DNA information to the press and it hurt Maj. Brown’s chances for bail,” said New York-based Michael Griffith, who specializes in defending Americans charged with crimes overseas.
Brown, 40, is accused of attempting to rape the 40-year-old woman as she drove him to his off-base home from the Camp Courtney officers club Nov. 2. The woman, a club employee, said he directed her to a deserted road and started to fondle her. Brown denies the allegation.
“These reports coincided with the opening of the trial and was an attempt to inflame the public and influence the minds of the judges,” Griffith said, calling for an investigation into the leaks. “If this was a false report, someone should be held accountable. All we want is a level playing field.”
Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu, a former Okinawa prosecutor, said he was “surprised that the DNA test was not listed as evidence on the 10-page report. Someone released this the day before the hearing to damage us.”
A Naha District Prosecutor’s Office spokesman declined comment about whether any DNA evidence existed or why, if it did, it was left off the list. However, he did not rule out presenting evidence not on the list at Brown’s trial.
“Here in Japan, unlike the United States, there is no problem if evidence is submitted later,” said Deputy Chief Prosecutor Junichi Okumura.
On Monday the judges cited the same reasons used previously for denying Brown bail: that he could destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses if released. They also said it was too serious a crime for bail to be considered. The next hearing is scheduled for April 17.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.