Court is told man
hurt son badly
But a defense attorney says
the infant's mother is to blame
for the severe injuries
A Waikiki man assaulted his 6-month old son, Taison, and attempted to suffocate him in April 2002 because the baby would not stop crying, a deputy prosecutor said.
But a defense attorney for Anthony Chatman suggested that the baby's mother is to blame for the infant's severe injuries and for not seeking proper medical care.
Chatman, 32, went on trial yesterday in Circuit Court. He is also accused of bribing, extorting and abusing the baby's mother, Asahi Suzuki, allegedly to intimidate her into recanting statements she made to police blaming Chatman for the baby's injuries.
During opening statements yesterday, Deputy Prosecutor Dan Oyasato said it was Chatman who used brute force to quiet the child and later to quiet the child's mother so she would not testify against him.
The baby was near death when brought to Kapiolani Medical Center on April 8, 2002, he said. Tests showed multiple injuries and bruises on the face and neck area and severe brain damage. Evidence will show that half of Taison's brain was "liquefied," and he lost complete vision in one eye and half of the other due to "serious, permanent brain damage," Oyasato said.
Testimony will show that the infant suffered injuries not simply from being slammed on a bed, but from being shaken vigorously "with the kind of force generated in a car accident at high rates of speed," Oyasato said. A doctor is expected to testify that an injury to the back of the child's brain was likely caused by suffocation.
But defense attorney Chester Kanai suggested Suzuki had a motive to blame Chatman for the baby's injuries because she was frustrated Chatman would not marry her.
Kanai said Suzuki will testify she never observed any vigorous shaking and that her recollection of the alleged abuse was "very fuzzy" because she had fled from the room when it allegedly occurred.
Her explanations for leaving the room because she was afraid and for not getting medical help because her English was poor are not credible, Kanai said. "She never sought help for that child ... her flesh and blood," he said.
Whenever Suzuki was in Chatman's company, she did so willingly and was not forced to do anything, including to write a letter retracting what she told police Chatman did, Kanai said. Chatman was not even with Suzuki the day she claimed he forced her to write the letter, he added.
Chatman, who was born here and had served in the Army, and Suzuki, a Japanese national, had met in June 2000 while she was vacationing here from Japan. They struck up a relationship despite the language barrier and even after she returned to Japan. Three more visits later, she became pregnant and gave birth to Taison in Japan in September 2001.
Suzuki brought the baby here for a visit in April 2002 to find out if she had a future with Chatman, Oyasato said. It was during that visit that she said she saw Chatman assault the baby two times. After the second alleged assault, Suzuki decided to return to Japan with the baby. They never made it onto the plane because Honolulu Airport employees called for medical assistance after noting the baby's condition.
If convicted of attempted murder, Chatman faces life imprisonment with parole. The trial continues today.