“WE CAN’T TRUST THE TESTIMONY OF BLACK PEOPLE”
ANOTHER CASE OF JUDICIAL MISCARRIAGE
A NIGERIAN INJURED AND DETAINED IN J POLICE CUSTODY
LOSES HIS LAWSUIT AGAINST THE NATIONAL POLICE AGENCY
Report by ARUDOU Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Released July 15, 2007
This post is organized thusly:
WHY THIS CASE MATTERS TO DEBITO.ORG
FACTS AND ASSERTIONS OF THE CASE
SUMMARY: According to court records, on December 9, 2003, UC Valentine, a Nigerian citizen working in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, was questioned by plain-clothes police on suspicion of violating laws forbidding the distribution of hand-held billets to passersby. Eventually a scuffle ensued in a narrow alley, where a melee of police and touts wound up with an injured Valentine being pinned to the ground by several police. Plaintiff Valentine claims that he was assaulted while being restrained, by a cop who repeatedly kicked Valentine’s leg so hard that it broke below the knee. The police claim that Valentine injured himself, running away and crashing knee-first into an elevated bar sign attached to the alley wall. In any case, Valentine was apprehended and interrogated for ten days, denied hospitalization or adequate medical treatment for the interim. Consequently, his leg injury became so medically traumatized that it required complex hospital operations. To this day Valentine remains physically impaired and in constant pain. In 2005, Valentine sued the NPA for damages and hospital bills totaling 42,937,800 yen in Tokyo District Court, but lost his case on March 29, 2007. Inter alia, the court ruled that not only was a doctor’s expert testimony about Plaintiff’s crippling injuries merely “a sense, not based upon rational grounds”, but also that a witness’s testimony was inadmissible because he is African. Clearly there is an emerging pattern of differing standards for non-Japanese claimants in Japanese courts.
The case is currently on appeal in the Tokyo High Court. First hearing on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, Tokyo Koutou Saibansho 8F, Rm 808, 1:30PM. Attend if you want.
Heisei 17 (wa) Dai 17658, Tokyo District Court, Civil Court Dai 44-Bu
Plaintiff: UC VALENTINE
Defendant: Tokyo Municipal Government (Tokyo-to), Governor ISHIHARA Shintaro et al.
Tokyo District Court decision full text in Japanese at
NPA’s fishy photo testimony of what happened at
Plaintiff Valentine’s testimony in English
WHY THIS CASE MATTERS: Setting aside any “he-said, she-said” doubts about different recall of the facts of the case, both parties agree that Valentine was detained in police custody for ten days without hospitalization. This caused his medical condition to worsen to the point of debilitation. This was not, however, seen by the judiciary as something the police should take any responsibility for.
As far as Debito.org goes, from a judicial standpoint this case is also of great concern due to differing standards for evidence based upon nationality. The judge, when dismissing the case, actually goes so far as to say (page 19) that testimony of a witness for Valentine (who vouches for his version on the police breaking his leg) cannot be trusted because it is “from the Black Community”. To quote:
“In light of the fact that the witness has been acquainted with the Plaintiff , visiting him in hospital after his leg was broken, and is a friend of quite some closeness, and the fact that they associated with each other within the Black Community in Kabukichou, witness Francis’s testimony as an eyewitness account is not something we can see as having objectivity, and as such cannot possibly believe.”
“shounin wa, juuzen kara genkoku to menshiki ga ari, honken kossetsu go mo genkoku o byouin wo mimatteiru nado kanari shitashii koto ga ukagatteiru yuujin de ari, kabukichou no kokujin no komyunitei no nakama de atta koto tou o terasu to, shounin Furanshisu no kyoujutsu wa, mokugeki shougen to shite kyakkansei o yuusuru mono to wa iezu, kono mama shinyou suru toutei dekinai”
Hm, try disqualifying a person’s testimony because he’s a member of a Black Community (not to mention because he is a friend who visits the Plaintiff in hospital), and see how that gets you in the judiciary of most of the world’s other developed countries. Moreover, the accounts of other police officers are not similarly called into doubt for having too much closeness in their own “community”.
I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Check out the cracked judge in the McGowan Case of 2006, where the Plaintiff (an African-American) was refused entry by an eyeglass shop expressly because the shopkeep “hates black people”. There, Osaka District Court Judge Saga Yoshifumi ruled against the gaijin there too. Inter alia, McGowan and his Japanese wife’s eyewitness accounts were deemed insufficient due to an alleged language barrier. Full details on that case (starting with a Japan Times article) at
In this case, presiding Judge Sugiyama et al go one better, and say that because they are black they are thick as thieves…
It’s one of the reasons we are seeing cases of suspects escaping overseas because they believe they’re going to get a raw deal in a Japanese court due to their foreignness.
I have no sympathy for wanted criminals, of course, but neither the McGowan nor the Valentine Cases are criminal cases. And still they got raw deals–court defeats. Due to a different set of judicial standards applied to foreigners than to Japanese. Adding these cases to the collection.
FACTS AND ASSERTIONS OF THE CASE
(based upon the court decision and with Valentine’s claims)
On December 9, 2003, UC Valentine (born 1972 and married to a Japanese from 2002) was working his shift as a show club distributing pamphlets to potential clients. In the early evening, he was approached by two plain-clothes officers who appeared to Valentine to be customers (Valentine asserts that they did not identify themselves as police until a melee ensued).
Minutes later, in a narrow alleyway close to the show club, other members of the Black Community shouted repeatedly to Valentine, “Leave them!”, apparently aware that they were either police or yakuza. What happens next depends on the side of the courtroom you’re sitting, but in any case, due either to panic (Valentine) or guilt (police), Valentine fled, then found himself being restrained by three cops on the ground in the alleyway. He was arrested on suspicion of violating the Entertainment and Amusement Trades Control Act (Fuueihou) Art. 22 Sec. 1 for distributing nightlife pamphlets on the street.
Somewhere in this scuffle Valentine’s right leg was broken below the knee. Valentine’s version (as was his eyewitness’s, unfortunately Black) is that a police officer named Tanabu kicked him several times in the knee, even while the former was being restrained by two other cops. The cops say (in photo-reenacted evidence shown to me in person by Valentine and his wife on April 26, 2007, and scanned at Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/valentinelawsuit.html#kneebash) that when Valentine fled, he crashed into a metal sign (jutting out in a triangle from the wall) knee first, breaking his leg.
What’s fishy about this story is when you look at the photograph, the sign is actually on a wall 23 cms high, with a sidewalk below it showing a raised curb and two steps. Valentine was nimble enough to avoid tripping over three steps, but somehow not nimble enough to avoid the sign. When you consider that this happened on a December 9 around 8PM, when the sign is likely to be lit and the steps in shadow, it is odd that the more visible object is the thing Valentine allegedly crashed into.
Also odd is that if he crashed into the sign knee-first, it should have broken his knee, not the bone below his knee. However, the police apparently confiscated Valentine’s pants for analysis, and after some time finally returned them with no report on whether or not there were traces of footprint.
Valentine was held in police custody between December 9 and 19, 2003, and, despite being put into a cast, given no access to a hospital. According to his testimony (http://www.debito.org/valentinelawsuit.html#etestimony), he claims that police interrogation involved quid pro quos–access to painkillers and his wife in exchange for signing documents, one a statement stating inter alia that the police did not injure him. On Day 10 of his interrogation, once the clause about injury was eliminated, Valentine signed and was turned over to Immigration, who called an ambulance and hospitalized him at Ebara Byouin, Tokyo, immediately. His leg was apparently busted up so badly (a case the doctor who treated him, whose testimony was entered into the court record (page 17 (i)), said he had never seen the likes of before) that it required rib bone transferal to the area at great time and expense.
Situations like these in Japanese custody have come under fire in 2007 by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. See
WHY THE COURT REJECTED VALENTINE’S SUIT
In addition to dismissing the eyewitness testimony due to being members of the wrong ethnic community, the decision makes two singularly interesting points, also indicative of this court’s odd standards of evidence:
1) In order for a foreigner to sue the State of Japan, the foreigner’s home country laws must also cover a Japanese in the same situation in that country (page 13 3.1 (1)). I’m not a lawyer, but I would have thought that Japan’s laws apply to everyone equally, including foreign residents, regardless of their country of origin. Fortunately, the judges rule that Valentine’s Nigerian citizenship does not void his ability to sue the State.
2) Despite acknowledging the expertise of Valentine’s examining doctor at Ebara Byouin, the judges dismiss their medical testimony as merely “a sense” (kankaku teki), not “rational grounds” (gouriteki na konkyou–page 17 (i)). The judges even decide (in their somehow professional medical opinion, on page 15 u (a)) that Valentine’s leg didn’t get that much worse while in custody. Then they even judge on their own recognizance (page 16 item e) that Valentine’s bones are strong–so he must have run into that sign pretty hard to hurt himself. After all, shoes, they say, inflict “pinpoint injuries”, and Tanabu’s “rubber shoes” wouldn’t cause the injuries that Valentine suffered (page 16 a (a)). Shoes are apparently incapable of stomping from the heel, I guess.
There are other fine points, such as who did what to whom with what, and whether people were running slow or fast, but never mind. The point still remains that Valentine was crippled due to a sustained lack of medical attention, and what kept him from that were the Kabukichou Police.
The responsibility for this is not discussed adequately in the decision (judges assert that an X-ray, a cast, disinfection, and draining blood from the joints performed on the first day of incarceration were somehow medically sufficient (page 22 3 (1) i (a) onwards)–even were the best that could be done in a non-life-threatening situation given the fact that he was in custody. Therefore nothing illegal happened. Regardless of the fact that Valentine still wound up crippled, for reasons his doctor says was due to prolonged medical inattention.
Even if Valentine had not been crippled by the police (instead, say, stabbed in the leg by a criminal), would these dangerously temporary measures still be legal? Quite probably. Which means the NPA’s clear negligence for the welfare of the incarcerated, plus the judiciary’s unwillingness to force them to take responsibility when something goes wrong, is damning evidence of the unaccountability within Japan’s criminal justice system.
Couple that with a court willing to use any pretext possible to discount the victim’s standpoint, including overruling doctors and dismissing testimony by nationality, and you have a police force which, increasingly clearly, can deal with foreigners any way they like with impunity.
July 15, 2007
REPORT ON VALENTINE LAWSUIT ENDS