With legal team shake-up, Ghosn seeks punchier defense

Japan Today -- Feb 18
By changing his lead attorney from a former prosecutor known as "the breaker" to a hotshot trial lawyer nicknamed "the acquitter", Carlos Ghosn plans a defense in his own image -- combative and media-savvy, experts say.
In the chaotic aftermath of Ghosn's stunning arrest last year on financial misconduct charges, the appointment of Motonari Otsuru -- an ex-head of the elite prosecution team investigating the case -- seemed a shrewd move by the auto tycoon.

Who better than a former prosecutor, who won his nickname by extracting confessions from suspects, to navigate the sometimes arcane Japanese legal system and predict what authorities would throw at them?

But the reality is that legal triumphs have been few and far between for the former Nissan chief, who has been in a Tokyo detention center for three months with little prospect of release before a trial that could take months to materialise.

Otsuru can only point to one surprise victory -- where the court refused to extend Ghosn's detention -- but he has twice failed to win bail for his client and eventually threw in the towel, resigning on Wednesday.

"From the beginning, Ghosn needed a lawyer capable of taking on the prosecutors and that is not Otsuru," said Japanese attorney Nobuo Gohara.

"Even after becoming a (defense) lawyer, he never criticized the prosecutors," Gohara told AFP.

Indeed, at his only public appearance, Otsuru surprised many Western observers with his demeanor -- cutting a rather passive and academic figure far removed from the sort of adversarial defense lawyer seen in the U.S. or Britain.

He declined to agree with foreign criticism of Ghosn's detention conditions or the Japanese legal system that allows suspects to be held almost indefinitely, appearing to side with the authorities against his own client. - Japan Today