The Kealoha trial resumes Tuesday with more witnesses for the prosecution.
A legal expert says key testimony is still to come from relatives as well as former HPD officers who made a plea deal with prosecutors.
We already saw several police officers take the stand last week. But legal expert Doug Chin says the officers who made a plea deal can offer more information on whether there was a conspiracy.
Detective Niall Silva was the first HPD officer to make a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Court documents say Lt. Derek Hahn, one of the co-defendants in the alleged conspiracy, told Silva to submit tainted surveillance footage into evidence to frame Gerard Puana for the mailbox theft.
Sgt. Daniel Sellers also struck a plea deal, and admitted in court that he gave Katherine Kealoha information that he accessed illegally.
Chin points out that testimony from the two former officers will be critical.
“They were on the inside so they were in the conversations with some of these people that are potentially being accused of the conspiracy. So how they come across, what they talk about, the detail that they’re able to go in is gonna be absolutely critical,” said Chin.
He defense attorneys will likely point out that testimony from those witnesses is tainted because they wanted to get a deal to save themselves. But they will still have more potential to hurt the defense.
“Anytime you have the government making a plea bargain with people, they know they’re giving up a certain cost. But they’re also getting so much in terms of somebody who was on the inside who knew about what was happening,” said Chin.
Testimony is also expected from Florence Puana, the 99-year-old grandmother of Katherine Kealoha and Gerard’s mother. She’s in poor health so both sides have questioned her through a video deposition, which will be shown to the jury in the days ahead.
“There’s also a compelling emotional point of having Florence Puana testify in this trial. Actually it would be even more emotional if she were there walking into the courtroom live, standing in front of them,” said Chin.
Chin points out that the most critical testimony will come from Gerard Puana himself. Chin says a lot will depend on how the jury reacts to his credibility.