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Progress lacking in hit-and-run case investigation

Date Posted: 2009-12-11

More than a month after 66-year-old Masakazu Hokama was killed on a roadway in Yomitan Village, police and prosecutors remain stymied as to how to proceed with the case.

The 27-year-old soldier-suspect being held by U.S. military authorities, continues to refuse to meet police for questioning since Japanese authorities refuse to permit his attorney to be present during interrogation. He spoke once with police shortly after the incident November 7th, but has heeded his attorney’s advice since. Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu has advised his client not to speak without legal representation because “police wrote something different than what my client actually said during the initial questioning session, and would not change the paperwork.”

Takaesu says he’s concerned a lack of adequate interpreters would deny his client due process. The Torri Station commander, U.S. Army Colonel James Woodard, has told authorities he would make the suspect available for questioning, but is not interfering with the soldier’s legal rights.

Observers say the lack of pressure being applied by prosecutors and police could be signaling they’re not confident they’ve enough evidence to get an indictment against the American soldier, or a conviction at a trial. Questions are being asked as to what police are going to do next, or if prosecutors will bend the normal Japanese policies on observers being available during questioning. Police themselves are reportedly becoming impatient and want Prefecture officials to provide assistance in the process.

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