Evidence disputed in Brown trial
January 17, 2004
NAHA, Okinawa — Lawyers battled over scraps of evidence Thursday in Naha District Court during the 14th session of the attempted rape trial of Marine Maj. Michael Brown.
After almost a three-month hiatus, Brown’s trial resumed with a four-hour session spent fighting over the final pieces of evidence to be submitted to the panel of three judges.
Brown, a 19-year Marine veteran, was indicted Dec. 19, 2002, accused of attempting to rape a Camp Courtney Officers Club barmaid in November 2002 and destroying her cellular phone. The trial recessed in October after Brown, 40, requested the court’s three-judge panel be disqualified.
Brown claimed the panel was prejudiced against him; the case was suspended while his request wended its way through the appeals process, eventually being dismissed by Japan’s Supreme Court in late November.
At the start of Thursday’s hearing, Prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake objected to the submission of karaoke song requests filled out by Brown at the club the night his accuser, Victoria Nakamine, drove him to his home in nearby Gushikawa.
Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu said the requests would prove that Nakamine, who told police she did not know the name of her attacker, knew Brown’s identity because his name was called out at least 10 times for his turn at the microphone.
“When she first reported the incident to police, all she wanted was her cellular phone replaced,” Takaesu said after the hearing. “She did not want to charge Brown.”
During testimony last May, Nakamine, 40, a Filipina married to a Japanese man, recanted her statements and said police and prosecutors coerced her into signing statements that Brown attacked her when she parked her car on a darkened street.
She said she understood little printed Japanese and was not aware of what she was signing. She said Brown tried to fondle her but stopped when she objected and left the car. She said he threw her cellular phone into a nearby river when she threatened to call police.
The judges said they would examine the evidence.
To counter the defense allegation that Nakamine may have been manipulated by police, Satake moved to have the court listen to messages she left on a policewoman’s cellular phone in December 2002, in which she wished the woman a Merry Christmas.
He said he hoped to show the judges that Nakamine had a good relationship with the police at that time. It has been the prosecution’s contention that Nakamine did not change her story until last May, after someone deposited $13,500 in her personal bank account.
The money’s source has never been made public.
Defense lawyer Takeshi Takano said the phone messages were “fabricated” and wanted to call the policewoman to the stand.
Over the prosecutor’s strong objection, the judges ordered him to produce the policewoman at a future session of the trial.
Takano also objected to the presentation of photos of clothing Nakamine wore the night of the incident.
“The prosecutor’s refusal to present the woman’s clothing as actual evidence means that they want to keep the evidence only with them,” he said. “This is very unfair and conceited. It makes the entire case very unclear and complicated.
“The woman’s clothing includes her undergarments, shirt, vest and a pair of sandals,” Takano said. “According to the statement prepared by the prosecution for the woman, she was allegedly pressed against the car seat and her shirt was forcefully removed and her bra was flipped over. If the description is correct, there should be some evidence of the violence, such as a loose button or stretched fabric.
“Examining such evidence is not possible from just looking at photographs,” he argued. “The authenticity of the evidence determines the credibility of her statement.”
The judges did not rule on the clothing issue Thursday.
However, the defense won a small victory near the end of the hearing when Satake asked judges to order Takano not to use Nakamine’s name in open court.
Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota ordered both sides to refer to Nakamine as “the woman” in the future.
Thursday’s session marked Takano’s first appearance. Takano founded the Miranda Association, a group of Japanese lawyers who want to change the Japanese legal system. The lawyer, from Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, joined Brown’s defense team in December.
His association wants to expand defendants’ rights in Japan’s legal system.