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David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, June 17, 2000


Uyesugi verdict was
quick and just

The Byran Uyesugi murder trial finished in a flash like the shots he fired at his Xerox co-workers with his 9 mm Glock Model 17.

Logo In the end, it boiled down to a delusional loser with a gun and the unimaginable harm he could do in a matter of minutes. It took the jury only a few more minutes to find Uyesugi guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Really, there was nothing for the jury to think about. How could there be a more senseless crime than one that left a jury nothing to think about?

The mass murder had few broad implications. It was just about a delusional loser with a gun. Uyesugi's attorneys could only trot out a lame insanity defense that failed to keep the jury engaged until its first coffee break.

So it ends with 28 shots that left seven men dead -- seven good men who had never harmed anybody. It ends with widows, children, parents and siblings weeping into a shared box of Kleenex over their crushing loss at the hands of a delusional loser with a gun.

It ends with Hiroyuki Uyesugi, Byran's father, shamed and defeated. An honorable man, he tried to express the remorse to the victims' families that his son couldn't muster. Ironically, his son's attorneys had attempted to argue that Byran's lack of remorse was cause for letting him off the hook for murder.

Clearly, Byran Uyesugi was a man with a plan and a purpose. He thought his actions were justified. He thought he was the victim. He said he had to make a point.

In the end, all he had was a whining insanity defense that the jury didn't figure was worth much of its time. Irrational and misplaced hatred is not a mental illness that absolves us of our ugliest crimes.

But there was no real satisfaction in the verdict. "It's profoundly inadequate to address how much we lost," said Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

And there's no clear path from here. We're a finger-pointing society and surely Xerox will come under scrutiny for how it handled this troubled employee. Certainly the company must account for its actions, but this is a dangerous road and we must walk it carefully lest a lot of people with harmless delusions find themselves barred from the workplace.

People of all political stripes will sink their teeth into the case. There will be calls for tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of delusional losers. There will be demands to allow the death penalty in Hawaii.

There will be hand wringing about whether Uyesugi will get proper psychiatric help in prison. Does anybody really care? Without an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons to back him up, he's no threat to others.

There's always a slim chance that somebody like Uyesugi will find a life of redemption, which is why many of us oppose the death penalty. But redemption is up to Uyesugi, not the state. Our sympathies and social services can be better spent elsewhere.

There will be demands to restrict the insanity and emotional disturbance defenses in violent crimes. But the emotional disturbance defense that looks so ugly on Uyesugi can fit well on an abused child or spouse. Rather than deny these people a reasonable defense, we must count on juries to recognize the difference. It took the Uyesugi jury just minutes to figure it out.



Xerox killings
Uyesugi verdict



David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at editor@starbulletin.com.

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