Retrial of federal agent begins in Hawaii killing
- Article by: JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
- Associated Press
- July 10, 2014 - 7:45 PM
HONOLULU — The attorney for a federal agent charged with murder in Hawaii told jurors Thursday that the defendant acted in line with his law-enforcement training when he shot and killed a man inside a fast-food restaurant in 2011.
State Department Special Agent Christopher Deedy of Arlington, Virginia, was back at the defense table a year after his first trial ended with a deadlocked jury and a mistrial was declared. Eight jurors were in favor of acquittal and four were for conviction, the previous jury's foreman said last year.
Defense attorney Thomas Otake said during his opening statement that the then-27-year-old agent was protecting himself and others from an aggressive Kollin Elderts, who was shot during an early morning altercation in a Waikiki McDonald's in November 2011.
Otake said it was best to begin at the end of the story, when Deedy found himself pinned under the wounded Elderts and tried to render aid.
After pushing Elderts off of him, Deedy got down on his knees and covered the wound, Otake said.
"He tried to stop the bleeding. He tried to save Mr. Elderts' life," the lawyer told jurors.
Judge Karen Ahn previously decided the current jury won't see the portion of a bystander's cellphone video showing Deedy trying to render the aid. The jury in the first trial saw the entire footage.
Otake replaced lawyer Brook Hart, who defended Deedy at his first trial.
The prosecution team remained the same.
In her opening statement, Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa echoed much of what she told jurors last year: Deedy was fueled by alcohol, power and a warning from a fellow agent about the hostility of Hawaii locals toward government employees and outsiders.
The prosecutor told jurors that Elderts, 23, of Kailua, was spending the night in Waikiki to celebrate the birthdays of friends. He was in a good mood when he and friend Shane Medeiros changed their minds about going to eat at Denny's and instead stopped at the McDonald's for a snack to end the night, Futa said.
"Neither Kollin nor Shane could know the tragic consequence of that decision," she said, adding that Elderts was shot within six minutes of entering the eatery.
Deedy unjustifiably used his firearm and intentionally killed Elderts, Futa said. Deedy shouldn't have been drinking alcohol while armed, even if he was off-duty, she said.
Otake acknowledged that Deedy had been drinking that night but said he knew his limits. He had been hand-selected to be in Honolulu to help provide security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the lawyer said.
The prosecution's first witness was Maile Goodhue, a friend of Elderts who was partying with him that night. She testified that Elderts had been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.
Transcripts of witnesses who testified during the first trial but aren't available for the retrial will be read to the jury.
The testimony of Ben Finkelstein, another agent who arrived in Honolulu with Deedy, was read Thursday. The testimony said that Finkelstein explained to Deedy that while Hawaii is beautiful and most people are friendly, there are "some people who dislike the federal government and dislike mainlanders."
Finkelstein said he told Deedy about the word "haole," the Hawaiian term for a white person. Finkelstein's grandmother, who grew up in Hawaii, taught him the word without mentioning any negative connotation, according to the testimony, but that friends who served in the Marine Corps told him the word had been used on them in a derogatory way.
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