Judges in Brown trial examine site of alleged crime
September 24, 2003
GUSHIKAWA, Okinawa — Justice took to the streets here Tuesday morning.
At 1:30 a.m. two of the three Japanese judges sitting on the attempted rape trial of Marine Maj. Michael Brown met with the defense attorney, prosecutors and police at the dimly lit side road near Camp Courtney where the crime allegedly took place Nov. 2.
Their intent was to see just how dark the street is during the early hours when Victoria Nakamine, a 40-year-old barmaid from the camp’s officers club, allegedly told police Brown attacked her inside her parked car.
The road is located along the Tengan River, a stream that separates Gushikawa from tower apartments on the base.
Nakamine testified in May at Brown’s trial in Naha District Court that police and the prosecutors coerced her into filing charges against the major. She recanted those statements in court and said that she did not want to pursue the charges.
In testimony that threw the prosecution into disarray, Nakamine, a native of the Philippines who is married to a Japanese man but does not read written Japanese, said she picked up Brown after the officers club closed and offered him a ride home. She said they stopped at the isolated road to talk and he kissed and fondled her, but when she protested he stopped.
During her testimony via closed-circuit television, she said the misunderstanding concerning the charge of attempted rape stemmed from her being upset that Brown threw her cell phone into the water when she jokingly threatened to call police. Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu said the description of events police had Nakamine sign was too detailed to have been possible. He claims Okinawa police invented a scenario describing Brown’s alleged movements inside the car.
“There is not enough light there at that time of the night to see inside the car and describe in detail what happened,” Takaesu said Tuesday.
“A couple of days ago, the judges told the prosecutor that they wanted to see for themselves,” Takaesu said Tuesday. “So this on-site examination was arranged.”
But the inspection of the scene did not go as well as Takaesu hoped. Nakamine’s black Toyota compact, driven to the scene by a friend, was parked at locations where Nakamine and Brown said the incident allegedly took place. With only the yellow halogen lights from the base housing towers shining from across the Tengan River, some 50 yards away, the judges said they could see inside the car.
“But that’s because they were alert and knew what they were looking for,” Takaesu said later. “A woman fighting off an attacker — that’s a different situation.”
He also said the night the incident was reported was overcast and drizzly, while Tuesday night was partly cloudy.
“But, while the night might not have been favorable for us, at the same time it was not disadvantageous either,” he added.
Reporters were not allowed to attend the examination and were kept about 100 yards away behind a police barricade. The meeting began at 1:40 a.m. and lasted until just after 3 a.m.
Brown, a 19-year Marine veteran assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force on Camp Courtney, is expected to take the stand Sept. 30.
At that time, the three-judge panel is expected to rule on the admissibility of evidence presented at a Sept. 9 hearing regarding Brown’s medical condition. During the hearing Takaesu unexpectedly offered X-rays and medical reports that showed Brown suffered a back injury in 1999 and has a steel collar and bolts inserted around his spine.
Brown testified that the pain and limited mobility he still suffers would have made it impossible for him to move Nakamine into a position to attack her in the manner spelled out in the police reports.
Brown, indicted on Dec. 19, spent 149 days in the Naha Detention Center before being released on bail. During the trial he is restricted to Camp Courtney, where his wife and two children are allowed to visit.
The family lives off base in Gushikawa.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.