Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Dale Minami Interview I
Narrator: Dale Minami
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: October 4, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-mdale-02-0001

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DM: What happened first was I received a call from the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California. They had been interested in filing an amicus brief on our behalf, and one of my friends there contacted me and told me that the attorney general for the state of California had received word from Washington D.C., the U.S. attorney's office there, who was handling the case for the United States, that the government was conceding the case, and that they did not intend to push the case any further. Frantically for the next hour we searched around for confirmation of that. Coincidentally, I received a call about half an hour later from a friend of mine in Los Angeles who works with channel 2, I believe. He told me that he had confirmed that independently through the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. So at that point we're about 75% happy, since nobody contacted me directly. And it was not until early afternoon I received word from the U.S. attorney's office directly that they had in fact moved to vacate the conviction, moved to dismiss the indictment, which basically was most of the ballgame.

Q: So you are pleased with the decision?

DM: We're pleased with the fact that they are moving to vacate. We're pleased with the fact that they are in a sense capitulating to the allegations we made in the petition. We have yet to review their response. There are things in there that we don't perhaps agree with as far as how they cast the motion to vacate, as an act of generosity from the government. We don't believe that. We believe they were forced to do it.

Q: For what reasons? What's your reaction to what they did and why did they do that? Why did the government make that motion?

DM: My analysis, and our analysis of our work group is that the government had nothing to gain out of these cases. They had a weak case legally, we had a strong case. And politically, the kind of defense they would have to put together would not only look ridiculous in the eyes of the public as far as trying to justify a racist such as General DeWitt, by claiming, no, he wasn't really a racist, and what he did really had some reasonable basis. Those types of defenses that they would have to raise which in fact have been repudiated over the course of history now, and especially with the findings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, would make them politically look very, I think, ludicrous in the eyes of the public. So both politically and legally they had, I would say, a weak case, and they had almost nothing to gain and everything to lose. From that point of view I think they had to make a decision.


DM: On one hand I'm very happy. I'm happy for Fred Korematsu, who has in a sense waged a lonely battle over forty years to clear his name, clear his record. I'm happy that in a sense the government has recognized that the decision that sent Fred Korematsu to jail and vindicated or sanctioned the removal of 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II has been undercut by the government's, in a sense, admission that something was wrong in his trial and his appeal. On the other hand I think, I'm little bit disappointed in the sense that we had the best of all possible worlds in this case. We had a case where we had smoking guns; we had documents that proved the government was lying; we had evidence that the government knew the Japanese Americans were no danger; we had evidence that the government conducted tremendous misconduct during the course of the trial and appeals. And because of that I was really looking forward to doing a trial on this case. We felt we had an excellent chance, we had an excellent judge, and it's rare that the combination of good facts, good judge, good client, good work team, good political climate all converge. And so when you have those chances, boy, you really want to go for it. You really want to make that presentation at trial because you know you have a really good shot of getting a finding by a court, rather than just an admission by the government.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.