HONOLULU, Hawaii – The federal agent charged with murder in a 2011 shooting inside a Waikiki fast-food restaurant is gearing up for a retrial, nearly a year after his first trial ended with a deadlocked jury.
State Department Special Agent Christopher Deedy of Arlington, Virginia, is back in Honolulu to stand trial a second time for killing Kollin Elderts during an altercation in a McDonald’s restaurant. He contends the shooting was self-defence. Free on $250,000, bail, he returned home after the first trial.
Last year’s trial ended with the judge declaring a mistrial. Jury selection for the new trial is scheduled to begin next week.
In the meantime, attorneys are hashing out what evidence or information they want the jury to hear.
A key difference this time is that jurors will see only a limited portion of a bystander’s cellphone video taken in the aftermath of the shooting. Circuit Judge Karen Ahn ruled at a hearing Monday that jurors won’t see the part showing Deedy rendering aid to Elderts.
During the first trial, the defence used the video to show jurors Deedy used his knife to help cut Elderts’ shirt and rendered aid. He’s heard on the video — amid Hawaiian music playing in the restaurant — imploring Elderts to breathe as police respond to the scene.
Deedy’s new attorney, Thomas Otake, argued that footage shows the agent wasn’t intoxicated, as the prosecution contends. Otake also said the video is of a better quality than the silent, choppy McDonald’s surveillance footage.
Ahn ruled jurors can view the portion of the cellphone video that shows Deedy’s interaction with officers arresting him.
Other rulings included barring details of Elderts’ 2008 disorderly conduct conviction and not allowing the friend Deedy was with to testify that his agriculture research work involved koa trees. Ahn said Deedy’s previous attorney violated her ruling not to mention the koa trees because he wanted to make Deedy’s friend sound “more local.”
The shooting occurred while Deedy was in Honolulu to help provide security for a November 2011 economic summit. He was off-duty when he went to the McDonald’s after a night of bar-hopping with friends.
Prosecutors depicted Deedy as an inexperienced agent who was intoxicated and defensive after being warned about Hawaii locals’ hostility toward outsiders.
Deedy, however, testified that he was protecting himself and others by intervening when he saw Elderts harassing another customer. Deedy said he fired his gun while Elderts was on top of him throwing punches.
Elderts, 23, and a friend were at the McDonald’s after a night celebrating the birthdays of friends.
Ahn has yet to decide on a defence motion to dismiss the case based on a doctrine that Deedy was acting as a federal law enforcement officer when the shooting occurred and is immune from prosecution.
Deedy will testify again during the retrial, Otake said.
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