Seaman answers to prosecutors
February 25, 2009
YOKOHAMA, Japan — The prosecution finally got a crack at Navy Seaman Olatunbosun Ugbogu on Monday, trying to punch holes in his insanity defense and also laying out a possible motive for murder.
At the sailor’s robbery-homicide trial in Yokohama District Court, the two Japanese prosecutors argued he killed 61-year-old taxi driver Masaaki Takahashi last March near Yokosuka Naval Base to get out of paying a $195 cab fare.
Ugbogu, 23, a Nigerian citizen, also faced questions from his defense attorney, Yasutoshi Murakami, the three-judge panel and the court-appointed psychiatrist during another full day on the witness stand.
Dr. Taro Muramatsu will determine whether mental illness played a role in the fatal stabbing. He will present the findings from his psychiatric observation at Ugbogu’s next hearing on April 28.
Ugbogu has confessed to the killing but claims he was ordered to do it by "overpowering voices."
On Monday, prosecutors took aim at the sailor’s finances, saying he needed money and actually intended to rob Takahashi — even though no cash was taken from the taxi. They also claim he knew he could withdraw $400 from a base ATM shortly after the slaying because his tax return had been deposited, and that move showed he was in control of his actions.
Ugbogu denied a prosecutor’s contention that the "voices" in his head were just a ruse to escape criminal responsibility.
During his testimony, Ugbogu again appeared lifeless and devoid of any emotion. He spoke almost in a whisper and mostly gave one-word replies, rarely exceeding a sentence in his answers.
At one point, he fell completely silent when a prosecutor asked him about doctoring a stolen identification card he used to enter Yokosuka right after fleeing Takahashi’s cab. About three or four minutes passed as no one in the court uttered a word.
He takes medication three times a day to stop hallucinations but told the court Monday he still hears "voices" occasionally at Yokohama Detention Center.
A prosecutor also grilled Ugbogu over a plan to go partying in Roppongi with a friend two nights after the March 19 stabbing death, asking whether the "voices" were guiding him in that decision.
The sailor testified it was his choice — independent of their directions — to hit the ATM, check his e-mail and shoot pool on base after leaving the crime scene. It was his way of coping with the "shock" of what had happened, he said.
Ugbogu said he was in a state of "blackout" — with the "voices" guiding his every move — from the time he woke up at his girlfriend’s apartment in Nagahara the day of the incident until right after the stabbing. Back at her place the next morning, he said he got "flashbacks" and began to fully realize the situation’s gravity.
He also started recalling other events that led up to the killing, according to his testimony.
Judges questioned Ugbogu about apparent discrepancies and lapses in the orders he received from the "voices" — wondering what would happen if he resisted them, and, if they were so powerful, why he didn’t follow their original directions to stab the first person he encountered on the street outside the apartment. They suggested he had control of his actions at times but still held onto the knife and wound up taking a lengthy subway and train ride before hopping into Takahashi’s taxi in Shinagawa.
Ugbogu had no clear answer.
Murakami closed by asking if he was scared or alarmed about suddenly getting a direction to stab someone, when the "voices" had never ordered that before.
"I did not think about it," Ugbogu replied.