Due process ought to be allowed to run its course

The China Post news staff

Imagine a Makiyo Kawashima having nothing left in her mouth except, perhaps, her gums and a tongue. Also imagine a blind Makiyo after her two beautiful eyes have been gouged out of their sockets. Yes, that is her, the television personage who allegedly kicked the taxi driver twice after her friend, one Takateru Tomoyori, allegedly a gangster in Japan, gave him a severe thrashing on Feb. 2. Even if “a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye” is the way things should be in human societies, it appears that we might already have extracted all the teeth from Makiyo’s mouth and gouged out her two eyes. For her immaturity, the woman is paying a very steep price. She is crushing under the combined weight of the media and opinion makers, whoever they might be. It must be stressed, however, in a civilized society, assault and battery is a criminal offense punishable with a prison term if it is serious enough; and ganging-up against somebody in a fight and lying about it every step of the way afterwards to save his/her own hide is cowardly and unacceptable behavior. In the final analysis, the woman has nobody to blame except herself for the predicament in which she now finds herself, and the sympathy of most people has to rest with the unfortunate cabbie.

So for more than a week, the woman who used to bask in the limelight was cast in a most unfavorable light. Members of the press and the media descended on her like a swarm of blood-thirsty locusts whenever she emerged from her hiding place, talk show hosts and commentators chastised her in a way that was no better than name-calling, advertisers said they were going to withdraw advertisements featuring her while reserving their right to sue her for damages; and her former friends — some friends they are — were distancing themselves from her, if not leaving her to the dogs altogether. To top it all, a prosecutor in Taipei announced yesterday, Feb. 10, that he was going to indict her and her Japanese friend on aggravated assault charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. This happened, however, after the victim, the injured cabbie, had said he would forgive her if she apologizes. The rest of society, however, has remained unforgiving to the now cornered animal that is Makiyo Kawashima. Of course, the sanctity of the law must be upheld, and wrongdoers, no matter how famous they might be, must be punished. But, before a court of law hands down the verdict, can we stop punishing her by calling for her head on a platter, and can everyone else stop ratcheting up the rhetoric against her and her friends involved in the incident, especially after Makiyo had wised-up by replacing her arrogance with an apparent awareness that many people are mad at her. Put simply, can we let the judge presiding over the case do his or her job without trying — perhaps unwittingly — to influence his or her decision? No one should be seen as trying, and still less be actually trying, to prejudice the outcome of a trial simply because one of the accused is a starlet and the other an alien, especially when not all the facts are known, yet. Everybody knows for the media, ratings and circulation are a matter of life and death. But, after so much sensationalism in a week, should somebody not be taking the lead in exercising self-restrained, even-handed news coverage? In fact, what many people are doing may even hurt the cause of those who are sympathetic with the cabbie or even the image of the judiciary. Why give anybody ammunition to claim the media and society at large convicted them?