Psychiatrist appears during sailor’s trial
YOKOHAMA, Japan — A Japanese psychiatrist assigned by the court to monitor robbery-homicide suspect Olatunbosun Ugbogu and act as an expert witness made a brief appearance at the U.S. sailor’s trial Friday morning.
Taro Muramatsu, an associate professor in the Department of Neuropsychiatry, Keio University School of Medicine, will determine whether mental illness led the Navy seaman to fatally stab 61-year-old taxi driver Masaaki Takahashi in an alley in Yokosuka’s Shioiri neighborhood last spring.
Ugbogu, 22, a Nigerian citizen, has confessed to the killing but said "overpowering voices" ordered him to do it. Prosecutors argue he killed Takahashi to avoid paying a $195 cab fare. He’s also charged with illegal possession of a knife.
Ugbogu, formerly assigned to the USS Cowpens at Yokosuka Naval Base, was in deserter status from his command when the incident occurred March 19. His credit card was found in the taxi.
Defense attorney Yasutoshi Murakami said prosecutors and the U.S. military ignored signs of mental illness early in the investigation.
Seated between two Japanese guards and facing the prosecutor’s table, Ugbogu was stoic throughout last week’s proceedings as he listened with an earphone to the English translation of oral arguments.
Muramatsu was appointed to observe Ugbogu at the Yokohama Detention Center and present his findings to the court at a later date. Afterward, he’ll face questioning from the prosecution and defense.
The lead judge said Friday that Muramatsu might meet separately with Ugbogu’s mother, a minister in New Jersey.
She’s scheduled to testify when the trial resumes Jan. 13.
Muramatsu will be in court for her appearance and again the following day when Ugbogu, his Japanese girlfriend and another U.S. sailor are expected to take the stand.
Muramatsu told the court Friday he has worked with many cases involving mental illness but plans to use an interpreter with Ugbogu.
At the detention center, Ugbogu has acted in a bizarre manner, suffers from schizophrenia and has been taking medication, according to a report from Yokohama Detention Center officials.