Marine's defense shows X-rays of injured back
September 11, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu stunned the prosecution with a surprise piece of evidence Tuesday in the sexual-assault trial of Marine Maj. Michael Brown.
After nearly four hours of testimony at the Naha District Court, Takaesu called for a five-minute recess and then put Brown on the stand.
It was the first time Brown, 40, has spoken since pleading not guilty April 17 to charges of attempted rape and destruction of private property.
The 19-year Marine veteran, assigned to the command element of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force on Camp Courtney, is charged with assaulting a barmaid Nov. 2 after she gave him a ride home from the Officer’s Club. He allegedly threw her cell phone into a stream when she attempted to call police.
On Tuesday, he said it would have been impossible for him to attack the woman in her car.
As Takaesu handed several X-rays to prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake, he asked Brown if he had a lower back problem.
“I was hurt in the line of duty in the latter part of 1999,” Brown said. “I had a steel collar put in the lower part of my back and cadaver bone was fused to my spine.”
He said he also had six bolts holding the collar together.
“Are you still under a doctor’s care?” Takaesu asked through an interpreter.
“I’ve been told not to run anymore or participate in any contact sports,” Brown said. “I experience a lot of pain.”
He said he sometimes needs medical injections just to walk.
“So, would it be possible for you to move the alleged victim in the front seat to a position where you could attack her?” Takaesu asked.
“I have a 5-year-old son I don’t wrestle with anymore,” Brown answered. “And he weighs just 45 pounds.”
The prosecutor was livid.
“This is against the rules,” Satake objected as he reluctantly took the X-rays from Takaesu. “There is no way for us to decide whether or not to agree to accept it as evidence. We need time to examine this before we make a decision.”
He said Takaesu failed to follow proper discovery procedures.
Takaesu just smiled and took the X-rays back.
That’s when Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota said the matter needed to be discussed after the hearing. The three-judge panel will rule on accepting the X-rays as evidence on Sept. 30.
Before Takaesu’s surprise move, the judges decided to accept as evidence statements Victoria Nakamine made to police and prosecutors prior to Brown’s indictment.
Takaesu had objected to the statements after Nakamine retracted her charges against Brown when she testified via closed-circuit television last May. Nakamine said she was coerced by police and prosecutors into filing charges against Brown and did not understand what she was signing, since the statements were written in Japanese.
Nakamine, 40, is a native of the Philippines and does not read Japanese.
She testified that she had wanted the charges against Brown dropped. While she said it was true that he fondled her in the car, she said Brown stopped his advances when she complained.
Tuesday’s hearing started slowly, with more than two hours of testimony by Gene Warfield, 47, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who said he examined the secluded side road where the alleged sexual assault took place and found conditions too dark to see anything inside a car.
That upheld Takaesu’s contention that Okinawa police invented a scenario for Nakamine to sign that described Brown’s movements in the car at 1:30 a.m.
Warfield, hired as a consultant by Brown’s family, said police photographs of the crime scene must have been manipulated to show there was enough light for her to see.
Warfield described photos he took and answered questions about the mechanics of his camera — what lens he used, the aperture and shutter speed.
When Warfield finished, the prosecutor called the police officer who took the photos to the stand.
He explained that he used natural light for his exposures, but took the photos at 8:30 p.m., when there may have been more lights on in a distant apartment tower complex.
Brown is expected to continue his testimony at the Sept. 30 hearing. After spending 149 days in the Naha Detention Center, he was released on bail but restricted to Camp Courtney, where his wife takes their two children to visit him. The family lives off base in Gushikawa.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.