The Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Christopher Deedy should be tried for a third time in connection with the death of Kollin Elderts.
Deedy was in Hawaii for the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference as a federal special agent when he shot and killed the 23-year-old in Waikiki.
Surveillance video from the restaurant shows the two men arguing before wrestling each other to the ground. Deedy eventually fires multiple shots. He has admitted on the stand to shooting Elderts out of self-defense.
Deedy’s first murder trial ended in a mistrial with jurors deadlocked.
He was tried again, but this time the jury could also consider the lesser charges of manslaughter and assault. That jury acquitted Deedy of murder, but could not reach a verdict on the lesser charges.
In February, Deedy’s attorney, Thomas Otake, argued that a third trial would be considered double jeopardy, because Deedy was already acquitted of the lesser offenses when the court instructed the jury not to consider them during the first trial.
Otake adds even the prosecutors and the judge had said in the past that there was no evidence for manslaughter. He plans to take the case to the federal courts to prevent a third trial.
“We believe that what’s happening here is wrong,” Otake said. “You can’t just continue to try somebody over and over and over again. You can’t pursue charges that you don’t believe apply, and we’re hopeful that the federal courts will see it that way as well.”
Otake tells us Deedy is disappointed by the ruling.
According to a spokesman, Deedy still works for the U.S. Department of State on the East Coast, but it’s not clear in what capacity.
“We are gratified to know the Hawaii Supreme Court agrees with our position that there is legal and factual basis to allow the case against Christopher Deedy to be retried. We will be pursuing a manslaughter conviction. Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa (who tried the first two cases) will handle the case,” City Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said. “You always pursue it differently, because the charge you’re focusing on is manslaughter, and the charge we had focused on in the previous trial is the murder case, so there will different evidence, yes.”
A murder conviction needs the intent to kill. For manslaughter, the burden is proving that the defendant acted recklessly.
Kaneshiro would not elaborate on what new evidence there will be and how the case will be pursued differently.
It’s still not clear when the third trial will be scheduled, because of the possible appeals by Deedy’s attorney.
The Elderts family is holding out hope that justice can be served.
“All we’re looking for is justice. He did come into a McDonald’s with a loaded gun drunk, and killed Kollin, and we just want to see justice, and we want to see the man in prison,” said Jenell Elderts, the victim’s mother. “Right now we’re on a holding pattern. “Our lives are on hold, and we’re waiting for this to end and justice to be served, and we’ll never forget.”
Deedy testified that he had a few drinks that night but he wasn’t drunk.
The family had criticized the prosecutor’s office for only giving jurors in the first trial the option to rule on a murder verdict and not the lesser charges.
“I’m hoping that maybe lessons learned from the past, they may this time take care of him, do their job and get him for the manslaughter charge that we asked him from the very get-go,” said Jenell Elderts.
The opinion of the court by Justice Richard Pollack says in part:
“Based on the foregoing, we affirm the circuit court’s (1) Order Denying Defendant Deedy’s Motion to Dismiss Under State v. Moriwake; (2) Order Denying Defendant Deedy’s Motion to Dismiss Under the United States Constitution; (3) Order Denying Defendant Deedy’s Motion to Dismiss Under the Hawaii Constitution; and (4) Order Denying Defendant Deedy’s Motion to Dismiss Under Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 701-109, 701-110, and 701-111. This case is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”