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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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International Attentions On Guam After Violent Murders
Japan recognizes incident rare as another victim dies in hospital

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGTA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 15, 2013) – International media attention on Guam in the aftermath of Tuesday night's knife attacks in the heart of the island's tourist district continued yesterday when a third visitor from Japan succumbed to his injuries at the island's civilian hospital.

As soon as Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) administration confirmed the third Japanese tourist fatality yesterday afternoon, Japanese print and electronic media, who have kept vigil for updates outside the hospital, immediately called, texted and filed stories remotely to spread the news to millions of viewers and readers in Japan.

Another set of Japanese reporters and their camera crews gathered at the site of the stabbings outside The Plaza in the heart of Guam's tourist district. NHK TV and another network sent live reports to Tokyo as new development surfaced.

As live reports were filed, tourists and local residents quietly trickled in, bringing flowers and bottles of water or juice to a makeshift memorial.

Yoko Inoue, a 14-year veteran journalist with the Yomiuri Daily News, said coverage of the attack has run on Page one at her newspaper since the day of the attack and again will be there in today's edition because of the increase in the number of Japanese tourists who died. Inoue, a second reporter and a photographer from her newspaper were sent to Guam to cover the event.

Inoue said Japan is captivated by the story, in part because Guam is known to many tourists as a safe place and is a familiar tourist destination to many Japanese.

Last year, more than 900,000 tourists from Japan visited Guam, making up more than 71 percent of overall visitor arrivals in 2012.

Gov. Eddie Calvo, speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in the Guam Marriott Resort yesterday, gave an emotional speech about how one man's attack has drawn attention to the island in an unfavorable light.

During the first day of the news coverage, a handful of reporters from Japan arrived on Guam. By noon yesterday, the governor said as many as 60 journalists were on the island.

The governor's voice wavered as he described the pain he felt when he came to visit an elderly Japanese man at GMH. That man, the governor said, lost his wife and daughter in the knife attack, and two of his grandchildren remained in the hospital for knife wounds. The children are 8 months old and 3 years old, respectively, and are siblings, hospital administration confirmed.

The young children were in stable condition yesterday at the Guam Memorial Hospital's pediatrics unit.

Court documents state that the 29-year-old woman who died, Rie Sugiyama, was the mother of the 8-month-old and the 3-year-old. The elderly woman who died was identified as Kazuko Uehara, she was Sugiyama's grandmother. Four generations of the Uehara family were on Guam for a wedding, Japanese media reported.

Japanese people understand that the attack was unusual on Guam, Inoue said.

Eyes on court system

The arrest and filing of charges against the suspect, 21-year-old Chad Ryan De Soto, a former student of John F. Kennedy High School, also has put the media glare on the local court system.

While his motive was unclear, court papers alleged that De Soto drove his car into an ABC convenience store late Tuesday night and started stabbing people as he came across them. The defendant "intended on hurting as many people" as he could, court documents allege.

The third fatality, 51-year-old Hitoshi Yakota, who died at GMH, wasn't related to the two women who died, according to GMH medical director Larry Lizama.

The 29-year-old mother was stabbed five times while trying to protect her 8-month-old baby and died at the scene, court documents state. The 81-year-old victim was stabbed twice and also died at the scene, court documents state.

The suspect was apprehended at the scene and charged the afternoon after his arrest with two counts of aggravated murder and other allegations. He is held on $2 million cash bail. An additional charge of aggravated murder was filed yesterday for Yakota's death.

Joshua Tenorio, director of policy, planning and community relations at the Judiciary of Guam, said the high-profile case will put a spotlight on the U.S. criminal justice system and the Guam Courts.

"There is a sense of urgency when dealing with such profoundly serious cases such as aggravated murder," Tenorio said.

"There should be every expectation that this case will be dealt with in a timely manner keeping in mind that the rights of the accused are guaranteed by the Constitution. The rights of the victims are guaranteed by local statute and the attorney general's office has a Victims Advocates Unit with the duty and obligation to assist."

Judges also have taken legal and professional oaths to ensure the fairness and impartiality of our system of justice, Tenorio said.

The De Soto case is proceeding at a normal pace, he said.

"In certain instances, the prosecutor has acted faster, such as charging the defendant less than 24 hours from the incident rather than waiting the maximum 48 hours under the law," Tenorio said.

"Whether you are a resident or visitor, the courts are there to ensure that justice is served and that individuals are held accountable for their criminal actions."

International look at U.S.

Tenorio doesn't recall another case in the Guam judicial system that has drawn as much media attention as the De Soto case.

Cynthia Ecube, president of the Guam Bar Association, said the community is deeply saddened by the loss of the individuals who died and the tragedy of those who were severely injured in the attack.

"In light of the fact that this tragedy has involved visiting individuals from our neighboring countries, it has undoubtedly attracted global media attention around the world," Ecube said.

She said this case will offer the international community an opportunity to observe the American legal process on Guam.

"Our courts follow the rule of law, which strongly advocates the rights of victims who have suffered while ensuring that fairness and due process is afforded to the accused party charged with a crime," she said.

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