Fujita Could Take the Stand in His Murder Trial
Wayland man Nathaniel Fujita is facing first-degree murder charges in the death of Lauren Astley, his ex-girlfriend and high school classmate.
The 93-name witness list in the trial of Nathaniel Fujita does not include the defendant's name, but that doesn't mean he won't testify.
According to defense attorney William Sullivan, the decision as to whether his client will testify in his own first-degree murder trial "has not been made yet."
Fujita is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and Wayland High School classmate Lauren Astley on July 3, 2011, and dumping her body in a Wayland marsh.
During opening statements on Wednesday, both the prosecution and defense agreed on a key fact: Fujita, then 18, killed 18-year-old Astley.
According to Sullivan, however, the questions the jury must now ask are more nuanced.
"Why did this horrific thing happen and how?" Sullivan said to the jury during his opening statements. "How does Nathaniel Fujita in the fall of 2011 …. big man on campus … dating one of the most popular girls in school … How does it go from there in the space of one school year to the summer of 2011, where Nathaniel by the middle of June is basically withdrawn from all of his friends, not seeing anybody but his family.
"Then on July 3, killing really the one person outside of his family who has shown any concern for him."
As both sides presented their opening arguments Wednesday, Fujita, now 20, sat at his lawyers' table dressed in a black suit and blue shirt. Though his back was to the courtroom gallery, he appeared to dab his eyes periodically.
Fujita's parents, Tomo and Beth Fujita, sat behind their son in the front of the courtroom and opposite Lauren Astley's parents, Malcolm Astley and Mary Dunne.
"The doctor will give you an opinion that he was not criminally responsible," Sullivan told jurors.
But Prosecutor Lisa McGovern said it was Fujita's "wounded ego" that led to him "coldly and cruelly" killing the ex-girlfriend who had broken up with him a final time just weeks before the murder.
The prosecutor outlined a timeline of events that had Astley coming to Fujita's house around 7 p.m. on July 3, just after getting off work from the Natick Mall. According to McGovern, Fujita strangled and stabbed Astley multiple times before loading her body in his car, driving five miles north, and carrying her body 36 feet into a marsh, where he left her in the thick vegetation.
McGovern repeatedly urged jurors to ask themselves, "What was he thinking?" as they hear evidence of Fujita's actions on the day of the murder.
In particular, McGovern said that a cyber expert will tell the jury that in the late night hours after the murder, Fujita's computer shows that he conducted a Google search for the phrase, "Does water erase fingerprints?"
McGovern warned jurors that the trial would take time due to the abundance of evidence to present. She also cautioned that some of the evidence will be "disturbing."
"Lauren Astley's death was immeasurably tragic," McGovern said. "But the evidence will show her death was not a tragedy, it was a crime. The killing committed by this man was the result of this man's actions, actions that were purposeful and deliberate."
|See the Trial Live Blog for a recap of the first day's witnesses: Wayland Police Officer Seanna Lombardo; Priscilla Antion, the cyclist who found Astley's body on July 4, 2011; and State Trooper Scott MacKenzie, a member of the water rescue team that recovered Astley's body. Court adjourned for the day before MacKenzie's testimony had been completed.|
After the day's proceedings concluded at 1 p.m., George Mattingly, a spokesman for the Fujita family, said the trial was a "surreal experience."
Mattingly said the family had spoken with Sullivan over the course of many months about the defense he would argue -- namely that Fujita was not criminally responsible for the murder due to a mental illness.
"This is a situation where the family has conferred with Bill Sullivan and his judgement is what we're relying on," Mattingly explained.
Mattingly said that he doesn't know how Fujita himself is handling the trial, though he expected to meet with him Wednesday afternoon. He said Fujita "doesn't like to talk about himself much."
The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9 a.m.