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No ruling on sealing evidence in case against federal agent

By Ken Kobayashi

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:25 p.m. HST, May 24, 2012


A state judge heard arguments but did not rule today on whether defense documents in federal agent Christopher Deedy's murder case and surveillance videos of a fatal shooting at a McDonald's Waikiki restaurant last year must be made public.

Circuit Judge Karen Ahn took the request by city prosecutors to seal the court filings under advisement and said she hopes to rule by Tuesday.

Deedy, 28, of Arlington, Va., is charged with murdering Kollin Elderts, 23, of Kailua, at the McDonald's Kuhio Avenue restaurant. The State Department special agent was here to provide security for leaders of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

Deedy's court filings include his request to throw out the charge because he was acting as a federal law enforcement officer. Filings also include the McDonald's restaurant security video recordings of the shooting on the early morning of Nov. 5.

The surveillance videos recorded events at the restaurant from about 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. the morning of the shooting, which occurred at about 2:44 a.m., according to Deedy's defense.

Deedy's defense said the videos show what happened between Deedy and Elderts.

City prosecutors argued that the defense materials were filed in an attempt by Deedy's attorneys to present evidence skewed in favor of the defense and generate news coverage that would taint potential jurors.

Deedy's lawyer, Brook Hart, opposed the sealing of the documents. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, its television news partner Hawaii News Now and the online news site Hawaii Reporter also opposed the prosecution's request.

City Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa said in her written arguments that the filings are not related to the motion to dismiss. They "serve no purpose other than to get as much information before the public in as biased a fashion as possible to have the case 'pre-judged' in his favor before the actual trial," she said.

"The tactic is clearly prejudicial to the state and must be curtailed if the integrity of the judicial process is to be preserved," Futa said.   

Hart said the exhibits support the defense's dismissal request because the surveillance videos show what happened between his client and Elderts.

Attorneys Jeffrey Portnoy and Elijah Yip representing the three news organizations said court records presumed to be  open to the public as a matter of constitutional law.  

"The state simply relies on conclusory allegations of harmful pretrial publicity," the news media lawyers said.  "That is not enough to overcome the presumption of access."






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