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Wednesday, June 14, 2000



‘Actions were
best evidence’

According to one of
Uyesugi's jurors

By Christine Donnelly


Byran Uyesugi's jury was sure of his guilt on its first vote, convinced by the way he planned the slayings, spared one co-worker and knew he had shamed his family, one juror said.

Xerox Trial "His own actions were the best evidence," Gordon Lau said in a telephone interview last night, hours after the 12-member jury on which he served convicted Uyesugi of first-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder in last year's Xerox massacre. "He planned it, he knew it was wrong, and he did it anyway. That's murder, not insanity."

That Uyesugi had the self-control to spare one potential victim while killing seven others was crucial to the prosecution, Lau said. Co-worker Randall Shin testified that Uyesugi did not fire at him.

"He shot some people, stopped, didn't shoot at one person and then started shooting again. If you're delusional, you'd be shooting them all," said Lau, referring to the defense argument that Uyesugi suffered severe delusions and should be acquitted by reason of insanity.

Also key: Uyesugi's careful planning of the massacre, including buying ammunition the day before, and his admission to a police officer afterward that he had let his family down, which proved he knew right from wrong, said Lau, a 58-year-old computer operator born and raised in Hawaii.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Judge Marie Milks' courtroom is so packed during a news
conference yesterday afternoon that a weeping Betsy Sakata,
aunt-in-law of the slain Melvin Lee, is lost among
the journalists reporting on the verdict.

The jury, made up of six men and six women, deliberated for 80 minutes. Lau said jury foreman John Wagner set a solemn tone by having the jurors spend the first few moments in silence to "clear our minds and really concentrate on the facts. He did an excellent job."

The jury was unanimous on the first-degree murder charge (for multiple deaths) on its first vote, but decided to "review it from every possible angle to make absolutely sure we weren't missing anything," Lau said. The second vote was also unanimous, and the jury moved on to the next charge, second-degree attempted murder, for shooting at Xerox employee Steven Matsuda as he fled the building. The jury quickly agreed Uyesugi was guilty of that charge as well.

Uyesugi's lawyers did not deny he committed the slayings, but argued that he should be acquitted by reason of insanity or convicted of a lesser charge. They said Uyesugi had suffered for years from delusions that his co-workers were out to get him and was "tormented" by a shadowy black demon.

But the jury convicted on the most serious counts, which carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. While Uyesugi "had some mental problems," he was not legally insane, Lau said. "I felt that he did have self-control and he did know what he did was wrong."

As for the lawyers in the case, Lau gave high marks to Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, "especially on his closing argument. He really covered every little detail, helped summarize the whole case."

He was less impressed by the defense, led by lawyers Jerel Fonseca and Rodney Ching, but "to be perfectly honest, I think they had a very difficult case to try. It just didn't seem as strong."

As an example, Lau cited testimony by dueling mental health experts.

"The witnesses for the defense, one had a one-page report, (another submitted) a couple of paragraphs," Lau said. By contrast, the prosecution's last witness, New York psychiatrist Michael Welner, submitted an 80-page report that summarized Uyesugi's work, personal and medical history and concluded that he had schizophrenia but was not insane at the time of the murders. "It was in depth ... and made a lot of sense," Lau said.

In the end, Uyesugi's own actions held more sway than the opinion of a particular expert, the styles of the competing lawyers or even emotional testimony from the victims' survivors, Lau said.

"All of us tried to be very fair to Mr. Uyesugi. We wanted to make sure he was convicted strictly on evidence and we tried to put aside any emotion we felt for either side," Lau said. "The evidence was clear."

Most of the 12 jurors declined to discuss the case immediately after the verdict, instead hurrying wordlessly out a back exit at the Circuit Court. Juror Donald Davis gave a quick comment as he walked to his car, saying "it was a very traumatic and disturbing case" and that it was clear Uyesugi knew what he was doing because the killings "were very well-planned."

Lau was among those who refused to comment immediately after the verdict, but returned a reporter's phone call a few hours later. "We kind of all made a beeline out of there because we've been under a lot of stress, but I also understand that people want to know about the verdict," said Lau, who is married and has three children. "I just needed a little time at home first."

Lau said he abided by Judge Marie Milks' orders not to discuss the case while the trial was under way. He avoided media coverage of it then by having his wife scan the newspaper first.

Opening Arguments from May 15, 2000
Xerox killings - Nov. 2, 1999

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