The judge in the murder trial of State Department special agent Christopher Deedy declared a mistrial today after the jury said it could not reach a verdict.
The mistrial was declared shortly after 4 p.m. after the judge polled the 12 jurors who all agreed that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
The initial announcement that the jury was at an impasse came at 3:30 p.m. in court. Defense attorney Brook Hart told the Circuit Judge Karen Ahn that the defense was not ready to accept a hung jury, but Ahn cut him off and called all parties to the bench for a private conference.
After about 20 minutes, the judge cleared the courtroom of everyone but the parties to the case. When she reopened the courtroom 10 minutes later, she polled the jury and declared the mistrial.
Deedy hugged Hart after Ahn declared a mistrial.
All parties will meet Friday at 1:30 p.m. to discuss a new trial date, she said.
Ahn said she was thinking of May or June for the retrial.
Deedy, 29, of Arlington, Va., is accused of murdering Kollin Elderts with a gunshot to the chest at the McDonald’s restaurant on Kuhio Avenue early on Nov. 5, 2011. The federal agent was in Waikiki providing security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
Members of both Deedy’s and Elderts’ family left the courtroom today without commenting.
Ahn did not give the jurors the option of convicting Deedy on the lesser charge of manslaughter, meaning that the jury only had the choice of guilty or not guilty on the second-degree murder charge, which carries a penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
City Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa said after today’s hearing that while she was “very disappointed,” she has no regrets about manslaughter not being an option. She said that without new evidence, there is nothing to support pursuing a manslaughter charge for the retrial.
Hart, meanwhile, told reporters that his client will continue to fight the murder charge. “My reaction is that Agent Deedy is not guilty, pled not guilty, and is not guilty. And the jury did not find him guilty.”
“He has another day in court to deal with these charges,” Hart said, “and we’ll have another opportunity then to put his position forward.”
Deedy acknowledges firing the fatal shot, but contends that he was protecting himself and his friend Adam Gutowski, who was being beaten by Elderts and his friend Shane Medeiros.
The jury, made up of eight men and four women, considered 20 days of testimony in the high-profile case and reviewed recordings from McDonald’s soundless surveillance cameras.
While the fight between Elderts and Deedy and the shooting were captured by the cameras, the defense and prosecution offered widely different accounts of what the jury was seeing.
In closing arguments, Futa described Deedy as a “bully with a badge” who used a gun to settle a fistfight between himself and Elderts.
Defense attorney Karl Blanke said his client acted in self-defense when Elderts continued to attack Deedy even after he had identified himself as a federal agent and pulled his weapon.
“Deadly force has been used by Kollin Elderts as soon as he drops Christopher Deedy to the ground,” Blanke said. “When an officer goes to the ground, that is a deadly-force situation.”
Futa argued that Deedy’s intoxication and inexperience contributed to the shooting. The prosecutor said Elderts and Medeiros were joking with McDonald’s cashiers and with customer Michel Perrine when Deedy noticed them and stepped in.
“There was no reason for the defendant to get involved,” Futa said. She said Perrine was drunk, ignored Elderts and Medeiros, and did not feel he needed help.
But, Futa said, “He (Deedy) had to meddle. … He came out of nowhere to address Kollin, who was merely sitting at the table crossing his arms and waiting for his food.”
Futa argued that Deedy pulled out a gun and fired the first shot without identifying himself as a law enforcement officer.
Blanke said Deedy was not the aggressor when, with his hands in his pockets, he approached Elderts and simply told him to leave Perrine alone. Elderts escalated the situation by becoming angry and even more upset when Deedy showed him his badge, Blanke said.
Blanke said the video showed Deedy pulling out his credentials. He said Deedy acted reasonably and followed his training as the confrontation became violent and he faced the possibility of death or serious injury.
“What special agent Deedy did was reasonable under the circumstances,” Blanke said.
The jury began deliberations on Aug. 15 for about three hours, resuming last Monday and continuing through Thursday. They resumed deliberations this morning after taking Friday off.