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Saturday, August 12, 2000

Uyesugi’s attorneys
shouldn’t be blamed

Bullet The issue: Byran Uyesugi's lead attorney, Jerel Fonseca, said he took abuse for representing the serial killer.
Bullet Our view: Defense attorneys perform a vital role in the judicial system.

IN the American judicial system, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But that presumption may be of little consequence unless the accused is represented by able and conscientious lawyers who demand that his rights be respected and that the prosecution prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The right to counsel is a vital part of the judicial process, but this is not widely understood. Attorneys who defend persons accused of heinous crimes may themselves be tarred with the same brush.

Jerel Fonseca, the lead attorney for the multiple killer Byran Uyesugi, took abuse for accepting that role. In an interview with the Star-Bulletin's Suzanne Tswei, Fonseca said strangers stopped him on the street and demanded to know why he was defending a cold-blooded killer. He received accusing telephone messages and letters. His son and daughter were teased at school.

"This is not the way to get famous," he said wryly. "If anything, it brought the wrong kind of fame."

In addition to the abuse, Fonseca said he lost money by taking on Uyesugi's defense because his firm was so busy that it could not accept other cases.

The job was formidable. There were 8,000 pages of evidence to be reviewed. There were reports from every police officer who had anything to do with the case, hundreds of photographs of the crime scene. In addition, there were the reports from the defense's own experts. Fonseca said he and his partner, Rodney Ching, were working seven days a week, 15 to 17 hours a day.

Although there was no question that Uyesugi committed the murders of his fellow Xerox employees, the law provides for acquittal on grounds of insanity. Fonseca built his case on that issue. Although the jury found Uyesugi guilty, the attorney says he still believes his client is insane.

Fonseca said he thought of the case as a challenge. By accepting that challenge, he was helping to ensure that his client was properly represented -- even if the jury found him guilty.

This is part of what it means to be a member of the legal profession. It is an honorable and essential role in our judicial system.

Jerel Fonseca and attorneys like him deserve society's respect for accepting such difficult and unpopular tasks. To equate them with the people they represent is grotesque.

Hong Kong
still curbs China

Bullet The issue: Conflict over illegal immigration from China to Hong Kong resulted in a violent protest at immigration headquarters.
Bullet Our view: Hong Kong's change of status from a British colony to a part of China has not altered the policy of restricting immigration from the mainland.

SINCE Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain three years ago, immigration from the mainland has been the most sensitive issue confronting the territory's government. Although Hong Kong is now part of China, the border with the mainland is still tightly controlled. Many mainland Chinese who would like to emigrate to Hong Kong, where the standard of living is higher, continue to be excluded.

Hong Kong's position is that the flow of immigrants must be restricted to avoid overwhelming its social services with millions of newcomers. The government of chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has gone to court to limit the number of immigrants. Last year it persuading Beijing to overrule Hong Kong's highest court in a case that had gone in favor of transplanted mainlanders.

Thousands of mainlanders are living in Hong Kong illegally and fighting to remain there. The conflict led to a violent confrontation recently at the Hong Kong immigration headquarters.

Fifty people were injured on Aug. 2 when a group of migrants doused the immigration office with flammable liquid and torched it, setting off an explosion and fire, the Associated Press reported. An immigrant and an immigration officer later died of injuries suffered in the fire. Fourteen others remained hospitalized a week later.

Authorities arrested 19 of the migrants and charged them with arson and intentional wounding.

Some of the mainlanders and their supporters have expressed concern that the fire could lead to retaliation against all immigrants, although only a small group was involved.

The fire was set, authorities say, after about 20 migrants came to the immigration headquarters and demanded documents that would permit them to stay in Hong Kong.

Immigration officers told them to leave a few hours later when the office was about to close. Several of the immigrants then poured liquid on the floor and set the office ablaze in what the Immigration Department described as an intentional attack on its officers.

The violence expressed the desperation of some of the immigrants resisting forcible return to the mainland. This has not changed.

Under British rule, the colonial government made strenuous efforts to curb illegal immigration. The reversion to Chinese rule has evidently produced no easing of restraints. For most Chinese, Hong Kong is still off limits.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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