Peter Irons Interview II Segment 3

Receiving a full scholarship to graduate school at Boston University while still in prison (ddr-densho-1000-127-1) - 00:05:43
Interests while attending Boston University: writing dissertation, research (ddr-densho-1000-127-2) - 00:05:44
Decision to go to law school, accepted to Harvard Law School (ddr-densho-1000-127-3) - 00:10:05
Filing writ of error coram nobis, succeeding in overturning conviction on draft resistance (ddr-densho-1000-127-4) - 00:10:26
Attitude regarding legal profession, "...use the system to people's benefit..." (ddr-densho-1000-127-5) - 00:05:08
First hearing about the Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases in law school (ddr-densho-1000-127-6) - 00:05:45
Getting a teaching job at Boston College Law School (ddr-densho-1000-127-7) - 00:03:42
Publishing first book, leaving Boston for a teaching position at University of California at San Diego (ddr-densho-1000-127-8) - 00:06:16
Revisiting Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases as topic for book on civil rights; doing research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (ddr-densho-1000-127-9) - 00:09:53
Collaborating with Aiko Yoshinaga and the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (ddr-densho-1000-127-10) - 00:05:28
Tracking down misplaced Justice Department case files on the "internment cases" (ddr-densho-1000-127-11) - 00:05:31
Discovering the "smoking gun": evidence of government misconduct in the "internment cases" (ddr-densho-1000-127-12) - 00:04:25
Making the decision to pursue reopening the Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui cases through coram nobis (ddr-densho-1000-127-13) - 00:03:51
Volunteering to testify before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians; assembling legal team, contacting Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui (ddr-densho-1000-127-14) - 00:12:44
Discussing merits of using coram nobis as basis for reopening cases (ddr-densho-1000-127-15) - 00:06:19
Initial meeting of the legal team: "One thing that impressed me was how well-organized everybody was" (ddr-densho-1000-127-16) - 00:09:21
Dealing with various issues, e.g. redress movement, Japanese American Citizens League, publicity, information leaks (ddr-densho-1000-127-17) - 00:08:20
Filing petition for writ of error coram nobis, assigned Judge Marilyn Hall Patel (ddr-densho-1000-127-18) - 00:07:43
Facing resistance and hostility from the government's attorney, Victor Stone (ddr-densho-1000-127-19) - 00:04:51
An emotional hearing: Fred Korematsu makes a "powerful" statement in court (ddr-densho-1000-127-20) - 00:04:25
Judge Patel vacates Fred Korematsu's forty-year-old conviction; reaction to Judge Patel's opinion: "I just felt overjoyed at what had happened" (ddr-densho-1000-127-21) - 00:04:59
Thoughts on being white, while working on civil rights issues with racial minorities (ddr-densho-1000-127-22) - 00:04:35
Gordon Hirabayashi's case in Seattle federal court, "a partial victory" (ddr-densho-1000-127-23) - 00:05:44
Gordon Hirabayashi's conviction is vacated in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, decision is made to not take the case to the Supreme Court (ddr-densho-1000-127-24) - 00:03:41
Legacy of the coram nobis cases and the incarceration: "the internment ... affected everybody in the country because it was done by the American government." (ddr-densho-1000-127-25) - 00:06:55
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ddr-densho-1000-127-3 (Legacy UID: denshovh-ipeter-02-0003)

Decision to go to law school, accepted to Harvard Law School

00:10:05 — Segment 3 of 25

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October 27, 2000

Densho Visual History Collection


Courtesy of Densho


Peter Irons

Peter Irons Interview II

02:41:34 — 25 segments

October 27, 2000

Seattle, Washington

White male. Born 1940 in Salem, Massachusetts. Family moved frequently during his childhood due to father's employment. Strongly influenced by parents' values regarding racial tolerance and inclusion, and principles learned through Unitarian Church. While attending Antioch College in Ohio, became involved in political and social activism for civil rights. Joined the youth branch of NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and other groups. Active in sit-ins and other demonstrations addressing racial inequality, peace and related issues, eventually becoming a full-time organizer. Worked for the United Autoworkers Union. Resisted the draft, and was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1964. Convicted of failing to report for military service and sentenced to three years in prison. Graduated from Antioch College, 1966. Appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals and lost. Served his sentence in federal institutions in Milan, Michigan, Terre Haute, Indiana, and Danbury, Connecticut. Following release from prison in 1969, attended graduate school at Boston University, obtaining PhD in political science in 1973. Accepted to Harvard Law School. While a law student, researched and filed a writ of error coram nobis with the federal court in which he had been convicted, and as a result had his conviction vacated. (Writ of error coram nobis establishes that the original case was premised on errors of fact withheld from the judge and the defense by the prosecution.) Graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. Taught undergraduate and law school courses at several schools before joining faculty of the University of California at San Diego. While conducting research at the National Archives and Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. in preparation for writing a book, discovered evidence of governmental misconduct during World War II, which refuted the U.S. government's rationale of "military necessity" for the mass incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry in 1942. Using this evidence, assisted the congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Contacted original defendants, initiated formation of legal teams, and was instrumental in filing petitions using the writ of error coram nobis, resulting in the reconsideration of the wartime "internment cases": Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Yasui. Dr. Irons is a professor of political science and director of the Earl Warren Bill of Rights Project at the University of California, San Diego.

Lorraine Bannai, interviewer; Alice Ito, interviewer; Dana Hoshide, videographer


Courtesy of Densho