Panel rules Brown trial can proceed
October 8, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — An independent panel of Naha District Court judges wasted no time in ruling the trial of Marine Maj. Michael Brown has been conducted fairly and may proceed.
Less than a week after Brown — charged with attempted rape and destruction of personal property — asked judges hearing his case to disqualify themselves, another panel reviewed the case history and made their ruling.
Brown and defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu appealed the ruling Monday to the Naha branch of Fukuoka High Court.
Brown, 40, was indicted Dec. 19 for allegedly attempting to rape a Camp Courtney officers’ club barmaid early Nov. 2 after she offered him a ride to his off-base home.
The 19-year Marine veteran also is accused of destroying her cell phone by throwing it into Tengan River during a scuffle with the woman, Victoria Nakamine, an employee of a Japanese agency that provides temporary workers for U.S. bases on Okinawa.
In court, she recanted the allegations, but judges decided to accept pre-indictment statements she allegedly made to police and prosecutors accusing Brown of trying to rape her when they were parked on a dark road along the river.
Nakamine, a Philippines national, said the statements were coerced and blown out of proportion. She said Brown began to fondle her in the car, but stopped when she protested.
She testified she could not read the Japanese writing on the documents she signed and no adequate translation was made available when she was questioned about the alleged incident.
During the last hearing on Sept. 30, Brown and his attorney argued the judges showed their prejudice against him by accepting those statements and called for them to recuse themselves.
The judges decided an independent panel needed to review how they had handled the case, and the decision to dismiss Brown’s motion came late Friday.
Presiding Naha District Court Judge Kazuto Nishii in a written ruling said the decision to accept Nakamine’s statements as evidence “cannot be construed as proof that the judges will conduct an unfair trial.”
“After reviewing other evidence and records in this case, we have found there is no objective evidence that these judges are conducting an unfair trial,” he wrote.
In his appeal, Brown said it was further evidence that he could not get a fair trial in Japan.
“The decision was rendered in less time than it could possibly have taken for even a cursory examination of the case,” he wrote. “This only serves to increase my skepticism of the fairness of the Japanese court system.”
Takaesu said he did not know how long the appeal might take. The case against Brown is suspended until the higher court makes a ruling, he said.
Brown is restricted to Camp Courtney, where he is assigned to the command element of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.