Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Peter Irons Interview II
Narrator: Peter Irons
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Lorraine Bannai (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 27, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-ipeter-02-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

LB: Obviously that was one highlight of the case for you. Are there any other significant moments in the case or turning points that come to mind to you now?

PI: There were a couple. One was that I had gone back to Washington and had made a request -- when you file a lawsuit you're entitled to discovery, that is, to get documents from the other side, on both sides. We had all the documents we thought we needed for the petition, but there were other documents in the Justice Department that we had not been able to locate or thought we might be able to find that might be helpful to us. And I recall that I made an appointment to meet with the Justice Department attorney who was handling the case for the government, a man named Victor Stone. And I recall meeting with him. And it was from the very first minute a very antagonistic and hostile meeting. We did not like each other. I thought he was extremely hostile, rude, and basically a nasty person. I always thought that about him. And I guess he didn't like me either. So it was a meeting where he literally tried to give me as little as possible. And I don't think actually that we got anything from that that was useful to the case. But I did form the impression early on that the government was not going to be very cooperative or helpful. I also got the impression, it was not necessarily because Victor Stone was not a nice person, but also that there were political factors involved.

We filed this petition when Ronald Reagan was president, and we felt that the Reagan administration would not be supportive either of coram nobis or of the redress movement as a whole. And the government could have joined the petition or at least not opposed the petition. We felt that we had such overwhelming evidence that the government had committed misconduct back in the 1940s in these cases that any reasonable lawyer would say, "We can't dispute this. This evidence in fact all comes from our own files. So what are we going to do?" And the, the generous, ethical thing to do would be to say, "We have reviewed this petition and the documents," -- preferably have the attorney general say this -- "and concluded that a grave injustice was done. The government in fact will join the petition asking the federal judge to reverse or vacate these convictions." We didn't really expect to that happen. But what we got from the government through Victor Stone, was trying to weasel out of any responsibility and minimizing the case. And as Victor Stone said in court, "These are things that happened forty years ago." Basically, who cares? In fact, he did say that in court once in Seattle during the trial in Gordon Hirabayashi's case. He said, "Your Honor, these are events that happened more than forty years ago, and the government does not feel that this is of any great importance." And there was an audible intake of breath in the courtroom. How could he say something like that? So that's one aspect of this, the very unpleasant, hostile relations we had with the government lawyers all through these cases. In a way it motivated us. In fact, we developed, we gave Victor Stone a nickname. We called him "The Weasel," and we made fun of him privately. I don't know if that was reciprocated on their side. But at any rate, the idea that well, now we have even more reason to push as hard as we can to win these cases.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.