Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Mits Koshiyama Interview
Narrator: Mits Koshiyama
Interviewer: Frank Abe
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 15 & 16, 1993
Densho ID: denshovh-kmits-03-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

FC: Tell us about the short haircuts. Everyone in the picture has short haircuts or starting to look bald. Why?

MK: Well, we all decided one day to get a haircut because we, we heard that our lawyer wanted it that way, Mr. Menin. So we gave ourselves all short haircuts, you know, it was just more or less a fun thing. And it wasn't to really prove a point or anything like that.

Then when we were in court, the, I believe the federal marshals tried to call our names and make us recognize ourselves. But our lawyer says, told us, "No, don't stand up, make them recognize you." So when we didn't stand up when our names were called, the federal marshal and the judge became very frustrated, and the judge became so angry that he told our lawyer, Mr. Menin, to make us stand up. So Mr. Menin says, "Okay, boys, stand up and recognize yourself." But we didn't know if Mr. Menin was playing along with the game or he wanted us to still sit down or what, so we didn't know. So we just, we just sat there, we didn't stand up. And that made the judge more angry.

FC: Did you finally stand up?

MK: Yes, we finally got the message and we stood up.

FC: Tell us about Menin. Did he do good by you?

MK: Well, I thought under the circumstances, he did fairly good, but I thought that he should have more based our case on constitutional issues, because that's, that's what we wanted. To us, the Constitution issues were the most important thing. Unlike the JACL where they said that public image and showing loyalty was the most important thing, we all thought that the constitutional rights and constitutional issues were the most important things.

FC: What did, how did Menin argue, then, if he didn't argue on constitutional issues?

MK: Well, he did. But what I'm saying is that he should have based more on the constitutional issues, and why we were incarcerated in the concentration camps without due process of law. He did, he did say a lot of those things, but I'm afraid that the judge was, in my view, was very prejudiced already so they weren't willing to listen to anything like that.

FC: Who was it that took a, did the lawyers get in a fight, or somebody fell over in their chair? What happened there?

MK: I remember those things very clearly. At one time during our case, the federal prosecutor was rocking back and forth on his chair, and all of a sudden he just flipped over backwards, bang, he just sprawled out on the floor. Well, naturally, most of us young guys were in the front, so, whoa, we just laughed, you know, it was so funny. And the old federal prosecutor got up red-faced and says, "You won't be laughing when you hear the verdict." So I assumed that he already knew what the verdict was. He just gave himself away, and he got embarrassed, so he just sat down quietly.

And another one was when our lawyer, Mr. Menin, objected to what the federal prosecutor was saying, the federal prosecutor says, "Your honor, if that, that lawyer doesn't sit down, I'll go over there and make him sit down." And Menin, he's pretty tough, too, so he took off his coat and he says, "Your honor, let him try." So I still remember those things.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.