Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.
Taka and Pafko witnessed the same trial, but their columns would have had you believe otherwise.
Prosecution Proves its Case
By Takeshi Takayama
Despite the brilliantly clever defense by the renowned Clarence Darrow and tear-filled testimony by alleged assault victim Thalia Massie, the defense failed to make its case. In response to Darrow’s rhetoric, prosecutor Kelley pointed out: “If an unwritten law or a temporary insanity defense can excuse murder when one’s wife accuses a man of rape, where does it stop? What other injustices can excuse one for the murder of another?” Kelley presented the simple facts: They did it. Then he asked the simple question: “Will you let them get away with murder?” The prosecutor added: “The only compassion available is a recommendation for compassionate sentencing.”
A nice touch, that ending. Kelley let the jury know that they can bring back a guilty verdict while considering the mitigating emotions of the defendants. These 12 men know their duty. They will bring back a guilty verdict.
Since Biblical Times
By Andy Pafko
America is a nation of laws. Yet, not every law is just, nor is every crime punishable. There are grievous acts of violence that require punishment. But what happens when one group within society gives a free pass to their own — one who committed a crime — by refusing to do their civic duty?
To claim that a not guilty verdict invites all of us to murder those who violate our freedom, whatever our excuse, is ludicrous. If that were so, we would have such cases weekly. The crime against Thalia Massie was singularly the worst type of injustice: rape, assault. An ignorant race having their way with the wife of a Navy officer.
This case is about public safety. When the jury in November refused to convict these wanton rapists, they made the streets of Hawai‘i unsafe for any white woman. The four heroes who made rapist Joe Kaha-
hawai confess made Hawai‘i a safer place. It was a tragedy that something UNPLANNED and unfortunate happened in the moment while he was in their custody. But that is mitigated by the fact that a rogue jury set him and his fellow thugs free.
The defendants should be commended, not convicted.
Taka was at school, thinking about the subject for his next column. Figuring the jury would take days, maybe a week, to decide this case, he was shocked when on April 29 — only 47 hours after the jury had retired — the radio announced that Judge Davis had called the defendants back to court. Taka rushed to the courthouse.
He slid into his seat in the press box just in time to hear Judge Charles Davis intone: “Have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor,” replied the jury foreman.
“What say you?”
“Guilty of manslaughter,” he said, followed by a dramatic pause, “. . . with a recommendation for leniency.”
The courtroom’s haole gallery erupted in protest. Judge Davis banged his gavel repeatedly to no avail and finally retired to his chambers.
* * *
The next morning, across America, the Hearst papers screamed, “Gangsters Run Hawaii,” “Forty Women Attacked in the Last Year” and “Fiendish Men Rule the Streets of Paradise.”
“Pardon the defendants immediately,” demanded William Randolph Hearst. If the governor refuses to do his duty, Hearst declared, “Then the president should do it and put Hawaii under martial law.”
One hundred twenty-one members of Congress sent Judd a message: “We, as members of Congress, are deeply concerned for the welfare of Hawaii and believe that the prompt and unconditional pardon of Lieutenant Massie and his associates will serve that welfare and the ends of substantial justice.” Victor Houston, Hawai‘i’s nonvoting delegate to Congress, telegraphed Judd. “Issue a pardon at the appropriate time,” it read. Local clergymen claimed, “The jury has erred,” and organized petitions, calling for a pardon. As if this were not enough, Judd received a call from President Hoover, urging him to “commute any sentence without any jail time.”
Walter Dillingham, outraged at the conviction, called Pafko. “Write one of your usual columns. Demand a pardon, but skip the brute stuff. We need to start healing the damage done by the verdicts of these two trials.”
“This will not stand,” said Admiral Stirling in a meeting with his officers.
Judd refused to take his calls.
Grace Fortescue’s “prison suite” in the captain’s cabin overflowed with flowers of sympathy from all over America. Tommy and his convicted shipmates were treated like heroes and enjoyed steak, lobster and a 1919 Bordeaux with the admiral.
Judd held steady. Thinking of the dilemma in which Pontius Pilate had found himself, he told everyone, including the president: “There is nothing to pardon. The defendants have not been sentenced.”
That night, he barely slept, thinking up scenarios of how Judge Davis could get him off the hook.
On May 4, Taka made it to his seat in the press box just in time to watch Judge Davis stare the standing defendants in the eye. His own eyes roved the courtroom, silent except for four languid fans stirring the air half-heartedly.
Stirling sat in the front row, his own mean eyes on the judge as if to say, “You had better do the right thing.” The judge cleared his throat, more from nerves, Taka speculated, than the need to dislodge any phlegm from his vocal cords.
After another studied look at his notes, the judge intoned, “You have taken the law into your own hands and murdered a fellow citizen. Either America is a nation of laws or the mob. You are each sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.”
Ignoring Grace Fortescue’s collapse, the haoles’ dismayed shouts, Hawaiians applauding and Japanese remaining seated in relieved silence, Admiral Stirling stomped out of the courthouse. Moments later, he charged into Judd’s office to find the governor and Dillingham at the window, watching the crowd exiting the courthouse while the radio on the governor’s desk, tuned to KGU news, broadcast live from inside the courtroom. Hawai‘i’s two most powerful civilians turned around at the heavy-footed intrusion.
“Larry,” said the admiral, addressing the governor, “this is no longer about what is right or wrong or what is just. The judge decided that. Wrongly, but it’s decided. The baboons have won their case. But I cannot control 10,000 naval personnel. And, looking at the reaction in the courtroom, you won’t be able to control your citizens, either. We are on the verge of a civil breakdown.”
Judd did not argue. For once, we are in agreement, he thought.
Dillingham spoke as Judd returned to his desk and snapped off the radio. “Our class has taken a beating, Larry. We will never recover our authority; these trials were a benchmark. Grace and that accusing daughter have done our island irreparable harm. They are stupid and evil. But we can’t let this linger any longer.” He stopped to cast an accusing look at Stirling. “Our control over our community must not be allowed to disintegrate.”
“We don’t want civil disorder. Nor do we want to put Hawai‘i under martial law,” said Judd. He looked outside at the reporters, including Taka, gathering around Washington Place as uniformed sheriff deputies escorted the defendants toward his office.
“Judge Davis made the right decision as a man of law. Now I have to use the powers of the governor to put in place what is for the greater good of everyone.” He looked at the two men and handed them a statement he had drawn up the night before, shortly after Judge Davis had called him.
“I’m a judge. I must make my sentencing based on the rule of law,” was all he would say. It was enough.
Dillingham and Stirling read the document. Stirling started to object. “This does not go . . .”
“Enough, Admiral!” Looking outside his door at the sound of booted men nearing his office, he continued in a more modulated voice. “Best you leave. I have business to attend to.”
Minutes later, the defendants were led into Judd’s office, where he read the statement commuting their sentences to one hour in the sheriff’s custody. He refused to pardon them.
And so the law was honored, but the defendants, now convicted felons, were set free.
Taka stood stunned as the governor’s aide passed out the statement to reporters. These four people are getting away with murder, he thought, and then sprinted to where he’d left his bike and rushed off to the Hochi.
“There will be no extra,” said Makino. “There’s been enough drama. Everyone knows they walked. No use pouring gasoline on the fire. We need your column. Don’t write it now while passion riles your blood. Go home. Ponder on this. Come back after supper.”
Taka biked home. He found his mother there alone.
“So it’s over,” she said.
“There are still the four boys and a second trial,” said Taka. “But the governor sanctioned murder.”
Hearing the fatigue and failure in Taka’s voice, Haru asked, “And if the governor had not commuted their sentences?”
She studied her son, wondering what conclusions he would reach. She knew this would be a turning point in her son’s life.
“Not good, Okäsan. Riots. Maybe even a Ku Klux Klan-type of reaction. At some point, Japanese and Hawaiians would be driven to strike back. Martial law would likely ensue. Congress could possibly hand Hawai‘i over to the military, meaning Stirling and the Navy.”
“So the governor did what he had to do?” Haru asked.
Taka gave her a fond but wan smile. “Can I write that? Are my readers in the mood for that?”
“Taka-chan, the truth is the truth.”
“What should I do?”
“That is your decision.”
To be continued . . .