U.S. sailor denies intent to kill in Yokosuka stabbing trial
Stars and Stripes March 29, 2008
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Two witnesses said Thursday that they didn’t see the knife coming before USS Gary sailor Joshua David Williams stabbed them.
The witnesses, identified only as “Lady A” and “Lady S,” testified with a screen separating them from the gallery and the defendant in the first day of Williams’s trial Thursday at the Yokohama District Court in Yokosuka.
“I ordered him to leave and then I heard a sound. ... I thought I was being bitten or punched at first, then I thought about the knife and so I looked down and saw blood oozing out,” said Lady A. “I was shocked that it happened.”
Williams, 20, is accused of attempting to murder the two Japanese females — 16-year-old Lady A and 26-year-old Lady S — on the morning of July 5, 2007, in an off-base apartment in Yokosuka.
But while Williams admitted to stabbing Lady A in the abdomen and Lady S 17 times in the back, shoulder, waist and head, he didn’t have murder on his mind, he said.
“I had no desire to kill,” Williams said, standing in front of the court Thursday in civilian attire. He also disputed the claim that the two survived because they escaped — Lady A by jumping from a balcony, Lady S by shutting herself in the washroom.
“Both of my actions were stopped by my own will,” Williams said. “I stopped on my own.”
The story of the morning unfolded in four hours of testimony Thursday in the first of three sessions devoted to the case. Prosecutor Yumiko Fujishima characterized Williams in her opening argument as “upset about being ignored” by Lady A and frustrated with life on base. Defense Attorney Yasutoshi Murakami countered that Williams was just “confused” about being treated badly by one of his friends.
“He felt as he was not treated like a human being but like a pet dog or a slave,” Murakami said.
The high-profile incident took place in a three-story house rented by a U.S. sailor formerly engaged to the 16-year-old Lady A. According to the prosecution’s statement, Lady A’s fiancé was absent, but Lady A used the house as her own and invited some friends over July 4. These included two other sailors who left before the stabbings and her friend Lady S, the statement said.
Williams showed up uninvited around midnight. Lady A let him in but later ordered him to leave the house. The two knew each other previously, according to court documents. Because Lady A was ignoring him, Williams took a steak knife from the second-floor kitchen and went to be alone, “pick his nails” with the knife and listen to his iPod, court documents stated.
Lady A later took the knife away from him and drove the blade into the floor. When she told him around 8 a.m. to get out of the house, he drove the blade into her stomach, piercing her liver, according to court documents.
Lady A testified Thursday that after Williams stabbed her, he crammed his hand into her mouth several times to try to stop her from screaming, but let her go when he heard Lady S on the stairs. Lady A told the court she jumped off the balcony to escape.
Lady S testified that she heard “thumping” coming from the floor above and ran up the stairs. Williams was coming down after her but she didn’t realize he had a knife, she said.
“I saw he had something in his hand and that it was shiny,” Lady S said.
Williams slashed her three or four times before she started rolling down the stairs to get away from him. He came after her, stabbing and slashing, she said. She eventually got into the washroom and closed the door.
According to testimony, Williams went upstairs to check on Lady A, but she was gone. He went outside to look for her and went to Yokosuka Chuo train station. There, Williams was stopped by Japanese police and asked about the bloodstains on his clothes, according to court records.
Williams first said it was “apple juice,” then that two girlfriends stabbed each other, then admitted to the stabbings and was taken into custody, court record said.
Both witnesses admitted to omitting details in their first statements to police and prosecutors after the incident. Lady S omitted that Williams came after her in the washroom; Lady A’s accounts conflicted over whether Williams held the knife in both hands, his right hand or his left hand when he stabbed her.
These details carry great weight as they speak to Williams’s intent — and finding out the “intent” is the “main point of the case,” said presiding judge Kazuyo Inomata.
The next session of the trial will be April 17 at 10:10 a.m.
Williams identified himself as a seaman apprentice off the frigate USS Gary. The ship left Japan last summer for reassignment to San Diego, but Williams remained in Japanese custody awaiting trial.
There was some question about where and how the sailor would be tried because he was 19 at the time of the incident and was still considered a juvenile under Japanese law. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the case was forwarded to the adult courts.