Racially charged murder trial grips Hawaii

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U.S. State Department Agent Christopher Deedy
U.S. State Department Agent Christopher Deedy on trial for second degree murder

HONOLULU — As George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial for the killing of Treyvon Martin crawls to a close in Florida, Hawaii is in the midst of its racially charged murder trial.

Claims of self defense and the right to bear arms are central in both cases.

Zimmerman, a 29-year-old Hispanic who headed the neighborhood watch patrol in his Sanford, Fla., community, maintains he shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin, who was black, in self-defense. Immediately after the shooting, Zimmerman was accused of targeting Martin because of his race, and Florida’s conceal-carry law came under intense scrutiny.

In Hawaii, U.S. State Department Agent Christopher Deedy is on trial for killing 23-year-old Kollin Elderts following a confrontation at a fast-food restaurant. The second-degree murder trial started on Monday in Honolulu’s First Circuit Court.

Immediately after Deedy, a 29-year-old Arlington, Va., resident, shot and killed Elderts, a local minority, on Nov. 5, 2011, racial tensions flared, as did the debate over whether Deedy should have been allowed to carry his weapon while he was out drinking.

Deedy was in Hawaii with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to protect dignitaries including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, an event that attracted 21 world leaders and 20,000 participants from Nov. 7-13, 2011.

At 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, Deedy clashed with Elderts in a Waikiki McDonalds restaurant after both had been out drinking with friends.

According to Deedy’s defense attorney Brook Hart, Deedy witnessed Elderts harassing Michel Perrine, another customer in the McDonalds restaurant.

Kollin K. Elderts

“While at the cashier counter, Elderts began to verbally harass Perrine using racial slurs. Perrine asked Elderts to leave him alone, not to single him out, and stated words to the effect that he was a ‘local,’” a defense filing said.

There was a brief but escalating brawl that involved Deedy and Elderts and their friends inside the restaurant.

In court on Monday, the prosecution and defense told different versions of what came next.

Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa said: “The defendant is up and draws from his right rear hip area the gun. Kollin turns around and sees him and the defendant within three feet of Kollin Elderts and fires his gun. He misses. Kollin, now having been shot at by the defendant, lunges toward him reaching for the gun. They grapple in front of the counter and then two more shots ring out. After the shots, Kollin falls on top of the defendant onto the floor. The third bullet was fired. After the third bullet was fired, the gun jams.”

Defense attorney Hart said: “The evidence will show that he used a number of measured steps to try to sway Mr. Elderts, and Mr. Shane Medeiros (Elderts friend) for that matter, from their violent assault.”

Hart said the slur- and profanity-laced exchange between Elderts and Perrine got Deedy’s attention.

“These are now fighting words,” says Hart. “This is a threat of violence. This is what Deedy is trained to perhaps respond to, although he wasn’t here to respond to the laws of harassment or bullying. He’s a federal agent and his job is to serve the community.”

Kollin Elderts was arrested twice: Once in 2008 and another time in 2010

Hart said Deedy showed Elderts his State Department badge and credentials and Elderts responded: “What, you gonna shoot me? You got a gun? Shoot me. I’m gonna gut you.”

The prosecutor has painted Deedy as an inexperienced agent who consumed alcohol against State Department policy while carrying a firearm and “stuck his nose” into a situation in McDonalds “that was not his business.”

However, Hart said the defendant was not drunk and showed the jury video of him being arrested to bolster his claim.

Hawaii has a concealed-carry law, but typically only law enforcement officers and retirees are issued permits. However, Hart maintained the U.S. State Department authorized Deedy to carry a weapon at all times.

Deedy sustained several injuries to his face including a broken nose and pummeled jaw, which Hart said backed up Deedy’s claim that he drew his firearm in self defense. Deedy was taken to the hospital after complaining about his injuries. However, Deedy refused to take a blood-alcohol test.

A city autopsy report showed Elderts consumed marijuana and cocaine before he died and had an alcohol blood level of 0.12, well above the state’s legal limit for driving of .08.

He also had previous run in with the law, according to public records. In 2008, Elderts was charged with disorderly conduct, and in 2010, he was charged with a petty misdemeanor for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.

The well-publicized trial is expected to take several weeks and could include as many as 100 witnesses.

Better Times: Christopher Deedy with his wife

The prosecutor warned in her opening statements that witnesses will offer different versions of what occurred and some, at that time of morning, were under the influence of alcohol. The prosecutor also said the surveillance videotape from McDonalds of the incident was “frustratingly fuzzy.”

HawaiiReporter.com joined Hawaii News Now and the Star Advertiser last year in a motion to view the McDonald’s surveillance tape of the shooting, but Circuit Judge Karen Ahn sided with the prosecutor who said pretrial publicity of what was on the tape could prejudice the jury and denied the motion. The defense also wanted the tape released.

The judge also sided with the prosecutor against Deedy on several other motions including his request to move the trial to U.S. District Court and to dismiss the case.

Outside the Honolulu courtroom, a group calling itself World Can’t Wait organized a protest demanding “justice” for Elderts. The group, which holds events in several cities, said on its website it aims to “stop the crimes of your government” and details their opposition to Deedy here.

Racial tensions have been brewing since shortly after the 2011 shooting, showing up in news interviews, letters to newspaper editors, court documents and protests.

Photo courtesy of World Can’t Wait Honolulu

Protesters from the World Can’t Wait group compared the case to that of the Trayvon Martin’s killing, claiming in Hawaii, a white agent attacked and killed a local minority.

It took prosecutors about 10 days to charge Deedy with second degree murder when, by the prosecutor’s own admission, there were more than 100 witnesses reporting different versions of the shooting.

Meanwhile, the debate over whether Deedy targeted Elderts for racial reasons or whether he should have used his firearm to defend himself and others continues both in and out of court.

Just like the George Zimmerman trial, in the end, it is the jury that must decide whether Deedy was justified in using lethal force.

Elderts supporters include family, friends and protesters who have followed Deedy to and from the courthouse.

Supporters of Deedy have launched a website, DeedySupport.com, in his defense.

The website says “Law enforcement officers should not be treated like murders when they protect the public.”

Comments

comments

68 COMMENTS

  1. if we had a conceal and carry law here in Hawaii that would allow ordinary citizens the option of carrying a gun in their possession in public,people like Mr.Elderts would think twice before bullying other people.stand your ground.

  2. One thing this trial has certainly highlighted has been the sloppy police work. First, the police did no blood alcohol on Deedy, even though they had him in custody and could easily have gotten a warrant or taken it under an emergency circumstances. Next, no less than three officers "testlied" they smelled alcohol on his breath, but didn't bother to put it in their reports, or didn't put it in until days/weeks/months later. Then the evidence technician does the same, but puts it in her report a year later at the insistence of her supervisor. One officer testified he was assigned to watch the gun, secure the scene, and take pictures, prior to the arrival of the crime scene technician(s). He was then seen on the video walking away from the gun, meandering around the scene, while civilians were also seen in the place, and then had to admit "loosing" the camera, which contained valuable evidence (perhaps for both the prosecution and defense.) Officers who testified that they smelled alcohol on Deedy let him perform first aid on Elderts? They stated his eyes were red (blood-shot) and his speech slurred, yet the pictures show his eyes clear, even though his nose was broken. Then to top it off, the MD who treated him at the hospital, who might be the only unbiased witness, testified he did not smell alcohol on him, found him to be unimpaired and speaking, acting, and moving normally. In light of the cops' performance and the one's Facebook post which clearly showed extreme prejudice, one has to expect the defense attorney will call their credibility into serious question. The police, like the court, should be searching for the truth, not bending it to gain a conviction.

  3. I'm planning to contact Deedy's attorney and the local media with my complaint regarding the Deedy trial. I was once arrested for DUI in Hawai`i. I went to court a total of 17 times before my case was finally dismissed. I'm not writing this to vent or as a "sour grapes” post. I'm writing this because the reports I've seen on Hawai`i local news are now starting to focus on Deedy's sobriety – or – his alleged lack thereof.

    For my trial, I requested police reports from contributing "witnesses". Every report I was given stated at the very beginning of each document; "When I met the defendant I noticed a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. He was slurring his speech and his eyes were glassy." This pattern of “reporting" was repeated throughout EVERY report and EVERY Police Officer/jailer I encountered.

    It was as if EVERY report was written starting with a "DUI Template."

    And BTW I had my charges dismissed because the arresting officer lied to me and denied my request for a "Blood Alcohol Test". He also missed about 10 court appearances. Trust me – as a 35+ year resident of Hawai`i nei – I love my life and the state I live in however, I can confidently state that – this trial and its tactics are nothing more than the SOS.

    The point I'd like to make is – that the current emphasis on Mr. Deedy's sobriety is a total load of BS and yet, that testimony has dominated the local news here in the Islands for the past week. I pray that this ridiculousness does not impact the jury's decision in regards to Deedy's guilt or innocence in this case. Any visitor or Haole resident in the Islands knows the fear and trauma Mr. Deedy must have experienced that tragic evening.

    As for the whole racial factor – yes – it's true. There is a racial undertone of prejudice here in the Islands. But, after you live here for a while you assimilate. The people you meet with these types of racial biases are nothing more than morons. On the mainland these people are referred to as, "poor white, (or trailer) trash. The fact of the matter is here you learn to ignore/adapt to the stupidity. A person does need however more than 1 or 2 weeks in Hawai`i to truly understand, cope, or, learn to ignore the prejudice. As for all my white mainland friends, family, and visitors, I've found that most are just not used to being the minority. This feeling for some people is quite unsettling. I've found that my own personal minority status has been both humbling and educational. In time, Haole residents do learn to live with it. Unfortunately, Mr. Deedy did not have the appropriate advice or tools necessary to respond to his predicament.

    My prayers are with the Deedy as well as the Elderts' families. Tragedy is tragedy; just look at the Travon Martin / Zimmerman trial. Unfortunately when fear, lies, prejudice, alcohol and drugs collide, quite often it's a perfect storm; nothing positive or good ever comes from it. I have faith in Hawai`i people and I'm sure that justice will prevail. My heart goes out to the human race, our country, our state, those immediately impacted by this tragedy, and, our local citizens. Good luck everyone and aloha.

  4. I'm from Hawaii and I think Deedy was right to shoot, he made every attempt to calm that clown down and if Eldert could not understand that's his problem and I'm Hawaiian not a Haole but I also understand right from wrong.

  5. Seems like nothing new has been posted for awhile. The defense has started its case and with the exception of KITV, the local media has not given nearly the attention to the defense that the prosecution got. Hats off to KITV for at least trying to do a balanced and fair job of reporting. I have spent a good bit of time in the court room. As a retired attorney, I have had some interest in the matter. The video showed me that Elderts was the clear physical aggressor in this case. He is the person, who, when confronted by a law enforcement officer, bowed up, left his seated position, and advanced on Deedy. I would ask, who would not want someone to intervene or say something to a couple of local thugs who were picking on someone because they are haole. (Ever watch the show What Would You Do?) I guess we know what Futa and Ahn would do. No, the prosecutor and court would want them to mind their own business. (Perrine was too drunk to even know he was being targeted, but at least someone saw that he was being abused and tried to do something about it. Perrine was too drunk and too stupid to even appreciate the effort). Meanwhile, the judge in this matter, Karen Ahn, is joined at the hip with her former mate from the prosecutor's office, Ms. Futa. The bias is unbelievable. Futa is on her feet every minute objecting to testimony from a Fillipino security guard? The trial is supposed to be about a search for the truth, not how much testimony can be excluded because of a language barrier.
    Between the questionable testimony of police officers who put their observations into their reports weeks or months later, the evidence technician who waited a year to make her observations, Det Boyle who got amnesia during cross-examination, an officer who lost a camera with multiple crime scene photos, how can one have much confidence in the veracity of the police investigating this? Never mind the police failed to get a blood alcohol on Deedy. he was well within his rights to refuse and the burden was on the sate to get a warrant or obtain it under exigent circumstances. Police work 101.
    The really troubling aspect of this case is the bias of the court. I understand the prosecutor might take this personally..although it is certainly possible to prosecute a case in a professional and relatively cordial and cooperative manner. The court has seemingly made no effort to discover the truth and has made statements outside the presence of the jury for the most part, essentially expressing her position. This is a systemic problem here. The prosecutor in bed with the judge and the police..its the good old boy, local network. I just pray for the sake of both Eldert's family and Deedy that the jury is paying close attention so that the truth can be discovered despite the prosecutor and the court.

  6. Deedy initiated the confrontation by approaching Elderts first, then when things got heated he then kicked Elderts who in turn attacked Deedy, that's when things got ugly and Elderts got shot. What makes it worse is that Deedy had alcohol in his system and refused the blood alcohol test. Based on those facts Deedy should not walk. Elderts and Medeiros are probably guilty of being a drunk, high, obnoxious, and probably deserved a beating but not death. Just my 2 cents.

  7. Deborah Morel has written part 2 of the Deedy Chronicles, this one is titled when Time Stands still," Deborah has spent days, researching, fact checking and studying everything she can get her hands concerning this case and her conclusion is not only, "not guilty," but innocent! Read the facts; http://dakinetalk.blogspot.com/2013/08/chris-deed….

  8. Racial slur, bullying, being loud, is this a crime? Mr. Perrine was attacked verbally, not physically. Mr. Deedy who had a few drinks, intervened. Perhaps he should not have intervened, and let the matter subside or call 911 to get local police to make the arrest if need be. My thinking is, when Mr. Deedy brandished his firearm, Mr. Elderts had no choice but to defend himself. Who actually was defending himself? Mr. Elderts ( may he rest in peace) is not here to testify in his behalf. Just my thoughts.

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