Jurors who weren’t able to agree on a verdict in the trial against a federal agent charged with murder in a 2011 Waikiki shooting got along well, despite their differences, the jury’s foreman said.
There were some moments during the six days of deliberations that got heated, Justin Odagiri said. "As soon as we took a break or went on lunch, we were like family again," he said. "Business was business. We didn’t hold grudges."
Ultimately, the jury deadlocked, with eight in favor of acquittal and four for conviction, he said. A mistrial was declared Monday. The Honolulu prosecuting attorney’s office intends to re-try the case against State Department Special Agent Christopher Deedy. The 29-year-old from Arlington, Va., is charged with murder after he shot and killed Kollin Elderts, 23, of Kailua, during an early morning altercation inside a McDonald’s restaurant.
The trial began July 8 and involved repeatedly watching silent, choppy surveillance video from the fast-food restaurant and looking at graphic autopsy photos, which weighed heavily on the jurors, Odagiri, 29, of Pearl City said.
"You could never stop thinking about it," he said. "I would dream about the video."
But Odagiri said it must have been worse for Elderts’ family: "They had to watch their son, their brother getting killed."
The jurors listened to Deedy’s three days of testimony, watched him at one point lay down on the carpet to demonstrate that he fired his gun while Elderts was on top of him, throwing punches. Deedy claimed he was acting in self-defense and protecting others from a hostile Elderts.
"I think he did a good job," Odagiri said of Deedy’s testimony. "I think that is because he’s trained to testify. He’s a law enforcement officer, and they’re trained to do that."
Some observers speculated that jurors were grappling with the racial elements of the trial, including Deedy’s claim that Elderts used the word haole, the Hawaiian word for white person, in a derogatory way. The prosecution also asserted that Deedy was defensive after hearing from a fellow agent that Hawaii locals dislike mainlanders.
"We were really trying to base our decisions on the facts we saw. It was never brought up," Odagiri said. "I mean, luckily, we have a diverse jury. There was a good spread of races, age differences. Some people were from the mainland."
Being in close quarters resulted in passing around sickness. "We were around each other all the time," he said. "Almost the whole time, someone was sick." Two jurors weren’t feeling well during deliberations, prompting one of their five notes to the judge to be about what to do if someone is too sick for jury duty. It was a Thursday afternoon, so the judge told them to return on Monday. Their two notes on Monday said they couldn’t agree on a unanimous verdict.
"We didn’t reach an agreement, but I think they picked a really good jury," he said.
Odagiri said he plans to follow the case and see how the next jury decides.