Rape-murder suspect wants trial moved to Tokyo

Toshimitsu Takaesu, the lawyer for Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, who is being held on suspicion of the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Okinawan girl in May, has submitted a written request to Naha District Court demanding that the trial be moved from Naha to Tokyo, because his client insists that he can’t get a fair trial in Okinawa.

Shinzato is scheduled to face the charges in the Naha District Court under Japan’s lay judge system, but according to his lawyer, he demands that the trial be moved to the Tokyo District Court, because the media in Okinawa has infected Okinawan residents with negative feelings “entrenched by animosity.” The lay judges (jury) for the trial would be selected from local residents.

The written request noted that the media on Okinawa has published details about Shinzato’s confession and disclosed details of physical evidence, which causes most local residents and potential jurors to have an advance opinion of the case. The letter also refers to resolutions passed by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and several municipal assemblies protesting the crimes committed by Shinzato.

The Supreme Court says there has not been a request to change jurisdiction under the joint judge-jury system before, and if accepted, this would be the first case ever, and likely to set a precedent.