Jury selection in Deedy’s high-profile murder case is expected to take weeks
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 6, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 10:35 p.m. HST, Jul 17, 2013
State Department special agent Christopher Deedy has returned to Honolulu for jury selection this month and trial this summer on charges he murdered a Kailua man at a McDonald’s restaurant in Waikiki in 2011.
Deedy appeared at a court hearing Friday to prepare for jury selection, which is scheduled to start April 15 before Circuit Judge Karen Ahn.
Opening statements for the trial are scheduled for July 1 to accommodate what is expected to be weeks of jury selection because of the massive publicity in the high-profile case.
In addition, Ahn is scheduled to go on three weeks of vacation in June.
Ahn said the vacation was planned before last summer and paid for prior to the scheduling of the trial this year.
Deedy, 28, is charged with murder and a firearms violation in a case that drew widespread coverage with national and international media here for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
Deedy was in town to provide security for diplomats.
He was off duty when he shot Kollin Elderts at about 2:45 a.m. Nov. 5, 2011, at the fast-food restaurant on Kuhio Avenue.
Deedy posted $250,000 bond for his release and received permission to reside at his Arlington Va., home and work at a State Department desk job.
At Friday’s hearing, Deedy affirmed that he agreed to the withdrawal last month of his motion seeking to dismiss the charges under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. The provision prohibits state prosecution of federal law enforcement officers acting in the scope of their duties.
In court papers filed this week citing reasons for the withdrawal, Deedy’s attorney Brook Hart said the hearing on the motion would amount to a minitrial, which would run for several weeks with testimony from many of the same witnesses scheduled to testify at trial.
Hart said Deedy did not have the financial resources to afford bringing in his witnesses from the mainland and housing them for what essentially would be two lengthy trials.
Hart, however, said Deedy still retains the right to raise the defense at trial that he was acting as a federal law enforcement agent to protect himself and others.
The trial could take as long as two months. The defense has submitted a list of more than 140 potential witnesses.
As outlined in pretrial court papers, city prosecutors maintain that Deedy was not acting in any official capacity.
They contend Deedy appeared to be intoxicated after a night of drinking and bar-hopping, threatened to shoot Elderts and kicked him before firing the fatal shot to Elderts’ chest.
The defense contends that a drunken Elderts was the aggressor who called Deedy a “f--- haole” and challenged him to a fight. Deedy identified himself as a law enforcement officer, but Elderts attacked Deedy and tried to grab his gun before the fatal shot, according to the defense.
Jury selection is expected to be lengthy, with hundreds of potential jurors summoned to court for questioning on whether they can be impartial in view of the media coverage.
Hart has maintained that the questioning is required because the jurors would be faced with “highly charged and deep-seated political, social and emotional issues.”
They include, he said in a pretrial filing, the “racial underpinnings” expressed in comments to news stories. The comments cited by Hart include a description of Deedy as a mainland Caucasian killing a “local man” and a suggestion that Elderts was a “racist bully.”
At Friday’s hearing, the lawyers reviewed responses from potential jurors seeking to be excused for reasons that include medical issues.