Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Minoru Yasui Interview
Narrator: Minoru Yasui
Location: Hood River, Oregon
Date: October 23, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-yminoru-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

Q: What is the importance of the reopening of these cases?

MY: The coram nobis proceedings were started again this year. It's based upon documentary evidence that was uncovered by Peter H. Irons, a professor of political science, now at the University of California in San Diego. The thrust of the whole action is that in the course of arguments and presentation of evidence, the United States Department of Justice, through its attorney, misrepresented, withheld, and indeed distorted evidence that was presented to the United States Supreme Court. Consequently, we say "a gross miscarriage of justice was perpetrated at that time." The coram nobis proceeding allows the defendants, who have already served sentence, so the statue of limitations does not apply, we are permitted to reopen the case on an appeal basis. This is what is being done. The latest development, of course, on October 4th of this year, the attorneys for the United States Department of Justice in effect have admitted error, saying that, indeed, forty years ago, rather than disparaging the decisions made at that time, in view of the public policy to put all of this behind them from forty years ago, that they are willing to vacate the convictions, that they are willing to dismiss the indictments, and therefore close the case on this particular series of coram nobis action. Frankly, it is in effect an admission of error by the government, but we feel that the government should at least accede to a actual finding of fact by the Court so that it will be a matter of record that indeed the government did err in 1942 and that the evacuation and military orders were unconstitutional and unenforceable.


Q: To you, to you, Min, personally, what does this reopening the case mean and including the support that you found that you're having now as opposed to what was available then?

MY: Oh, it's extremely gratifying so far as support is concerned. The significance of this case simply is that in talking about redress, no matter whom we talk to insofar and the Congress is concerned or to other lawyers, it is always brought out legally that the United States Supreme Court did sustain the constitutionality of evacuation. Our purpose in this particular appeal is to undercut the foundation and basis of that Supreme Court decision. It is true that the record of the Korematsu case, Hirabayashi case and my case will remain so far as the United States Supreme Court decisions are concerned, but if we undercut the grounds on which those particular cases were based, it seems to me that no one thereafter can say that evacuation or military orders were constitutional or valid.

Q: When you were sitting in solitary, did you ever feel that, "Maybe no one will ever notice I'm doing this"?

MY: No. The fact of the matter is, having heard and read the decision of James Alger Fee stating that the military orders were unconstitutional and could not be enforced against citizens of the United States, it gave me a tremendous boost. Certainly in our appeal to the United States, I was very hopeful that the United States Supreme Court, because the Fee decision was so well-reasoned, very excellently researched, and it certainly had foundation for its conclusions, I was hoping, of course, the United States Supreme Court would sustain the Fee decision in my particular case. That is to say that the evacuation and military orders were unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Q: With the resolution in your favor in these cases, and if Japanese Americans were given redress, would that satisfy you? Would that...

MY: Satisfy? No. Even if we are successful in this case, it won't erase completely the agony of the people or the frustrations that were endured by 120,000 people. But more than that, the record will show that the United States did err, and that forty years later, this country's big enough and great enough to acknowledge such error and to go on from there. So the hope that I would have is that in the redress proceedings, we will be able to establish a trust fund to protect the rights of all persons in these United States so that this kind of a thing will never again recur.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.