Seeing Justice Through Tokyo Rose Colored Glasses

Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger

Iva_Toguri_mug_shotDoes the US Government have rose colored glasses when it looks at itself administering justice for an individual after the demands of the public to instigate a prosecution are satisfied by an individual going to prison? One may look at a bit of history to see this more clearly. A chapter would be read by some in the case of Iva Toguri. Another might be that of George Zimmerman.

For an overview Iva Toguri, known popularly as Tokyo Rose for her involvement in a radio program named “Zero Hour”, assisted in the broadcast by the Japanese government during the Second World War programming to allied forces in the pacific for propaganda purposes. The broadcasts tended to be biased news reports, skits and American music.

A Los Angeles born American citizen Iva travelled to Japan in mid-1941 to attend to a sick relative and had interest in studying in medicine while there. She had intended to return to the United States but was not able to after the Pearl Harbor attacks which effectively stranded her in the nation. Declared an enemy alien by Japanese officials, she sought to find work with a Japanese news agency which led to her being employed with Radio Tokyo which led to the Zero Hour Broadcasts.

During her time at Radio Tokyo she reportedly made over 300 broadcasts and was paid a meager salary of which she would often use to purchase food which she occasionally smuggled into Allied Prisoners of War in a camp which held her supervisors Australian Major Charles Cousens, US Captain Wallace Ince. Iva refused to broadcast what she considered to be anti-US propaganda whereupon Cousens and Ince assured her that the scripts they provided her would not contain such information.

After Japan’s surrender, two American Reporters Harry Brundidge and Clark Lee offered $2000 to anyone who could arrange for the person commonly referred to by American Forces as “Tokyo Rose” to be interviewed for a news article. In response to this offer of needed money to address her desire to return to the United States she came forward only to be arrested afterward and the promise of money was reneged. After about a year of incarceration, she was released due to neither the FBI nor General McArthur’s staff finding sufficient evidence to support the claim she had aided the enemy. In fact, a nearly five year investigation of her involvement with the Zero Hour broadcasts encompassing hundreds of witnesses and archives and records of the broadcasts federal officials decided there was insufficient evidence to support a treason prosecution; a justice department official calling her actions “innocuous”.

But it did not end there. Various persons and factions in the public and government lobbied and advocated for her arrest for treason, one being a columnist named Walter Winchell who actively lobbied for her imprisonment.

And then the government had a change of heart.

Toguri was then arrested by military officials and taken back to the United States to face a prosecution for treason. And after what was at the time the longest and most expensive trial in United States history, she was convicted on one count for broadcasting information concerning the movement of ships.

There were several legal and evidence problems with the trial. Many of the soldiers testified they were not certain whether statements made during the broadcasts were actually made by Toguri or if the information was mere rumor. And there were questionable actions performed by the prosecution. Two of the prosecution witnesses, Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio, who testified with some of the most substantial evidence against Toguri, were revealed to have committed perjury. The later stated the FBI and US Forces had coached them for two months as to how to testify and what to say and were even threatened with prosecution themselves for treason if they did not agree to testify.

(President Ford later unconditionally pardoned Toguri in 1977 after a previous news expose by Chicago Tribune reporter Ron Yates revealed these and several other problems with the original trial that convicted her.)

It would seem very likely the will to prosecute Iva Toguri was directly related to political and external factions influencing the government to take action despite the original findings that her conduct was not fitting to that of treason. Yet after over sixty years since her trial are we seeing a repeat of the same behavior in the treatment of others who are pariahs to some today?

One has to ask if history is repeating itself in the actions taken by the US Justice Department alleging George Zimmerman had broken US Federal Hate Crimes laws in his killing of Trayvon Martin, where he was acquitted by a Florida jury in his Second Degree Murder Prosecution.During the trial there was no evidence entered as to whether or not the killing of Trayvon was motivated by racial issues on behalf of George Zimmerman. The prosecution did not stipulate this was racially motivated, the attorney representing Trayvon’s family stipulated on two occasions during interviews with national news media that this incident was not about race or racially motivated. The FBI, like had been the case with Iva Toguri’s initial investigation, stated that there was no evidence that a federal crime had been committed and in the latter case George Zimmerman had attacked or killed Trayvon on account of race or his heritage.

Despite no evidence brought up in the state trial, no statements made by George Zimmerman that he assaulted Trayvon due to his race, and what many regard as having no probable cause to charge George Zimmerman with a violation of federal hate crime statutes, the Justice Department and the administration have made more than just inferences that they intended to go after George Zimmerman for racially motivated killing.

Would these actions by the federal government have taken place if George Zimmerman was convicted of an offense by the Florida jury? Would the government been not so inclined to do so if numerous civil rights organizations and influential persons not lobbied the government and spoke out with such resolve as Walter Winchell had decades ago with Iva Toguri? If that is the case are persons to be put on trial simply for their notoriety? Does an active voice of the public constitute a grand jury with the authority to compel the government to instigate a prosecution?

It certainly is not the first but some other trials instigated by Federal Officials after a state court acquittal have also focused on civil rights trials where there was either obvious jury nullification by less than objective jurors. And in some cases where law enforcement officers, (government agents for purposes of depravation of rights under color of law) have been successfully prosecuted federally. Probably of most notoriety were Officers Laurence Powell and Stacy Koon convicted for violating the civil rights of Rodney King after their acquittal on state court assault charges led to widespread rioting and over fifty deaths.

The difference between the Los Angeles Police Officers and George Zimmerman and Iva Toguri was that as commissioned law enforcement officers, they have fundamentally differing constraints than ordinary citizens. And, lesser standards are expected to be adhered to with regard to civil rights issues for George Zimmerman and as it the same for treasonous acts alleged to be committed by Iva Toguri who was essentially coerced as a civilian by a government hostile to her nation and held by military officials when she was not in fact a military service woman of the United States.

But how long a net will the Federal Government cast in a fishing trip for evidence that has been conspicuously been lacking despite having a supreme amount of attention and resolve to use anything possible to convict George Zimmerman of a serious felony for killing Trayvon Martin?

Moreover, what is that is a deciding factor in whether or not the federal government prosecutes an individual who has been acquitted on a state charge? There are numerous cases where individuals are acquitted by state courts but the federal government does not prosecute or perhaps even notices. But when such persons receive much notoriety it seems to make the prosecution by the federal government all the more likely.

Is it considered to be a rose colored lens for which the government addresses social upheavals and grant what it believes to be justice by instigating prosecutions against those who are perceived by many to have done a great wrong but evaded prison by acquittal on a state court? Or, is it too much to expect from one individual chosen by the federal government to be held responsible for the sorrows that society holds in general and be punished for the ills of society?

18 thoughts on “Seeing Justice Through Tokyo Rose Colored Glasses”

  1. Good job Darren. Sorry to be so late to respond. I do remember the Tribune stories on Tokyo Rose. I am not sure I agree that the call by some to pursue civil rights violations against Zimmerman is comparable to the injustice that Iva Toguri experienced. However, it is still early in the game. Let’s see what the Feds decide to do, if anything.

  2. Thanks for this story Darren. I periodically gripe about the serial prosecutions of defendants being an abuse of the double jeopardy principle, in spirit and intent if not the letter as applied. It would be better for all for the proper jurisdiction to be worked out in advance and have one trial. To do otherwise makes it look like sour grapes and politics. Historically there have been great abuses of the system by jury nullification (I say that being a fan of nullification BTW) and just plain bias but that’s that. If it happens once then it should be an alarm bell for the relevant jurisdictional players when the next similar case first comes up as a chargeable offense. It shouldn’t be a matter of serial trials.

    I had no real knowledge of Tokyo Rose other than her name and a vagrant mention of her by my father. It was an interesting read Darren. Thanks again.

  3. Further to the above:

    From the Faculty Lounge Blog:

    “Of the twelve incidents [i.e. telephone calls — out of 43 total] in which race was given, six, including the incident reporting TM, involved black males (#34, 36, 37, 39, 42, 43), 5 involved white males (#3, 11, 23, 24, 40), and one involved two Hispanic males and one white male (#9). We could just count eyeballs (or skin color) and draw conclusions about whether GZ is a racial profiler on that basis. But as in most things, context matters. Which way does the context cut in this case? Probably in both directions.”

    “Of the six incidents involving black males, one, recall, is the one in which GZ reports that he is concerned about the well being of a black male child who is wandering a busy street without adult supervision. So we’re talking about five incidents involving black males GZ found suspicious, and one involving a black male he wanted to help.”

    “On the other hand, of the six incidents involving white males and Hispanic males, we may want to distinguish those incidents where GZ knew or at least had prior contact with the “suspect” (#11, the incident involving his ex-roommate, and #40, the one involving the food server he fired but had never met) from those where he reported total strangers (the remaining four). This leaves us with five reports involving black males GZ found suspicious and four reports involving white and/or Hispanic males.”

    According to the article, other than the calls involving Trayvon Martin and the lone child, the black males identified turned out to be actual burglars identified by fingerprints and found to be in possession of stolen property.

  4. DigitalDave:

    “Since Zimmerman reported dozens of suspicious males, all black, there seems to be a prima-facia case for racial bias or hatred. Absent that, what was their case?”

    This has been repeated on the internet many, many times, but it turns out simply not to be true.

    Detailed analysis here:

    http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2013/07/what-do-zimmermans-calls-to-police-show-about-his-view-of-black-men-.html

    Police call records here:

    http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/327330/george-zimmerrman-911-call-history.pdf

  5. Can anybody tell me, if not for race, then what was the supposed motive for Zimmerman to murder Martin? To prove second degree murder, the prosecution must prove intent, which must have a motive.

    Since Zimmerman reported dozens of suspicious males, all black, there seems to be a prima-facia case for racial bias or hatred. Absent that, what was their case?

  6. traveling limey,

    Actually, what Trayvon called him was “crazy ass cracka”, a pervert.

  7. Darren, Thanks for info about Toyko Rose. I had heard of her but my family was apolitical and I was too young to understand.

    As to your reference to gz, otherwise known as “fogen” (he whose name shall be forgotten):

    “During the trial there was no evidence entered as to whether or not the killing of Trayvon was motivated by racial issues on behalf of George Zimmerman. The prosecution did not stipulate this was racially motivated, the attorney representing Trayvon’s family stipulated on two occasions during interviews with national news media that this incident was not about race or racially motivated. The FBI, like had been the case with Iva Toguri’s initial investigation, stated that there was no evidence that a federal crime had been committed and in the latter case George Zimmerman had attacked or killed Trayvon on account of race or his heritage.”

    No evidence or reference to race was b/c Judge Nelson so ruled in response to a motion from the defense. As she also left out the jury instruction that would have allowed the jury to consider all actions, not just the final instance before the shot at the request of the defense. The FBI has not completed its investigation nor has it issued a report of any kind. They opted to let the state do its job. Well, the state failed, either through deliberate act or incompetence. I await the feds report.

  8. Thank you Darren for a thoughtful piece and a remembrance of Tokyo Rose. What I would add from memories of my childhood, were many of the WWII movies that dealt with the war in the Pacific, would at one time or another show a picture of troops sitting around a large radio listening to “Tokyo Rose broadcasts”. These movie “broadcasts” were the voice of a sinister female who would say very disheartening things about America’s lost cause and urge them to surrender. In my mind growing up then Tokyo Rose became a bad person taunting our soldiers and disheartening them. It was the movies and I have no doubt now that these scenes had little to do with Iva Toguri and much to do with painting a propaganda picture of the evil of the Japanese.

  9. I remember as a young law student in Chicago in the mid to late ’70s someone told me that “Tokyo Rose” worked at a gift shop in the Belmont Clark neighborhood on the North Side. One day, while walking through the neighborhood, I decided to stop in her store. There she was, a tiny and very elegant woman attending to her tasks in the shop. I left without saying a word. Too much had already been said to, and about, Iva Toguri. I left her alone in peace, but I will never forget the first, and last, time I laid eyes on “Tokyo Rose”. Over and out.

  10. It would seem very likely the will to prosecute Iva Toguri was directly related to political and external factions influencing the government to take action despite the original findings that her conduct was not fitting to that of treason.

    Yes, that would be jingoism on steroids.

    Like with the prosecutions of whistleblowers in today’s world.

  11. The broadcasts tended to be biased news reports, skits and American music.

    The mother of modern media news doncha know.

  12. You mention Zimerman. We all heard that he called Martin a punk, but hardly any broadcasts of what Martin called Zimmerman, a ‘cracker’, a racial slur. The Chaos Merchants are hard at work in America today.

  13. One has to remember that Ezra Pound should have joined Lord Haw Haw at the short end of the rope after WWII. Instead he was granted mental dispensation since he was protected by the literary establishment. Now THAT was an injustice.

  14. Mr. Smith,

    Excellent article. To the point while maintaining neutrality stance. Thanks for the insight.

    Lynching mob, screaming for justice, is not a true justice.

  15. Isn’t this a little pre-mature? Last I heard they were “looking into it”. FWIW, I don’t think they have any intention of charging him. It’s just a way to get past the initial anger.

    But I thank you for the accurate coverage on Iva Toguri. The miscarriage of justice included some not insignificant prison time, too.

  16. Fantastic article!!! One might also go back to Cotton Mather, and examine his role in the Salem Witch Trials. Fortunately, a merchant by the name of Calef did some “blogging” about the Spectral Evidence and made a fool out of Mather.

    Proving the quip, “you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much” Mather continued to insist the witches were guilty, and his persecution was justified, long after others repented their actions. There seems to be some revisionism going on the last few decades, to rehabilitate him, but I have some old books closer to the time, and I am not swayed.

    A Witch Trial by any other name, must still satisfy some deep human need for human sacrifice. You have provided one more trial to add to the list. Thx!!!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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