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Bōtō chinjutsu: First volleys in courtroom battle

by Michael Hoffman

“Kiritsu! (起立! All rise!)” cries the court clerk. The judges — three saibankan (裁判官, professional judges) and six saibanin (裁判員, lay judges), Reiko Keyes among them — take their places. Reiko is surprised at how full the courtroom is. It’s manseki (満席, a full house). The case has drawn a lot of attention in the masukomi (マスコミ, media). Evidently curiosity is running high.

The spectators resume their seats. The kōhan (公判, trial) is in session.

The kensatsukan (検察官 , prosecutor) rises. Reiko is struck by his appearance. Though young, he is almost bald and bordering on himan (肥満, obese). He would look just right, it occurs to her, on a poster warning of metabo (メタボ, metabolic syndrome). His naturally hearty, hogaraka (朗らか, cheerful) manner seems out of place in a hōtei (法廷, courtroom). But his voice as he reads the kisojō (起訴状, indictment) is powerful and impressive.

“On the night of March 21, 2009, the hikokunin (被告人, defendant), Yasuo Yamazaki, satsui wo motte (殺意を持って, with intention to commit murder), proceeded, armed with a knife he had purchased the day before, to the convenience store where the higaisha (被害者, victim), Sayuri Fukuda, had a baito (バイト, part-time job). When she emerged from the store shortly after her shift ended at 11 p.m., he accosted her and sashita (刺した, stabbed her) in the left abdomen, as a result of which she shikketsushi (失血死, bled to death).”

The prosecutor pauses, and Chief Judge Tazawa addresses the defendant. “Anata wa mokuhi ken ga arimasu (あなたは黙秘権があります, You have the right to remain silent) . . . Kisojō ni kaite aru koto wa sono toori desu ka? (起訴状に書いてあることはその通りですか, Is the indictment correct as written?) Soretomo doko ka chigau tokoro ga arimasu ka? (それともどこか違うところがありますか, Or are there any points you dispute?)”

Reiko observes the defendant closely. Just as the prosecutor seems not to look like a prosecutor, so the defendant doesn’t look to her anything like a satsujinhan (殺人犯, murderer). He is a kakko ii (格好いい, good-looking) young man, with something in his eyes, fixed intently now on Tazawa, that suggests eager intelligence. He is very young — at least 20, since he is being tried as an adult, but certainly not much more.

His voice is firm and clear, even ringing, without being loud. Reiko is struck by the absence in it of even a hint of fear. “Watashi wa Fukuda-san wo koroshite imasen” (「 私は福田さんを殺していません 」, “I did not kill Ms. Fukuda”).

Judge Tazawa nods to the prosecutor. “You may proceed with your bōtō chinjutsu (冒頭陳述, opening statement).”

“Yasuo Yamazaki and Sayuri Fukuda,” the prosecutor continues, “first knew each other in ch?gakko (中学校, junior high school). “They tsukiatta (付き合った, went out together) off and on. To Fukuda-san, the defendant was merely a friend — hardly even that, an acquaintance. But the defendant had koi ni ochita (恋に落ちた, fallen in love) with Fukuda-san. I am not without dōjō (同情, sympathy) for the defendant. He kurushinda (苦しんだ, suffered), suffered terribly. And Fukuda-san, it must be said, seemed to tanoshimu (楽しむ, take pleasure in) his suffering. She continually karakatta (からかった, teased him) about his kanjō (感情, feelings) and about her many boyfriends. She was, in an innocent teenage way, zankoku (残酷, cruel). And the defendant, being of a jōnetsuteki na seikaku (情熱的な性格, passionate temperament) . . . “

Yes, thinks Reiko, he is obviously passionate; you can see that at a glance. She feels a keen interest in the young man. Contemplating him, she momentarily loses track of the prosecutor’s remarks. Passion seems such a rare thing nowadays . . .

“Moreover,” the prosecutor winds up, “we will call shōnin (証人, witnesses), and shōmei suru (証明する, prove) that the charges against the defendant are correct, that her indifference to him turned his love into a cold-blooded hatred so all-consuming that the death of Sayuri Fukuda became the sole object of his life!”

He sits down, dabbing the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. It is rather warm, Reiko thinks.

The bengonin (弁護人, defense lawyer) now rises, a slim young man whose spectacles flash under the fluorescent lighting. His manner, as he launches into his speech, seems positively angry.

Saibanin no minasan! Yoku o-kiki kudasai! (裁判員の皆さん!よくお聞きください!Lay judges! Please listen carefully!) The prosecutor has concocted a piece of fiction so that you will yūzai ni suru (有罪にする, convict) my client! Listen now to what really happened!”

Anata wa mokuhi ken ga arimasu (あなたは黙秘権があります, You have the right to remain silent).”

Fiction series Keyes’ Point appears on the first Bilingual page of every month.