The jury in the retrial of federal agent Christopher Deedy handed down a not guilty verdict on the charge of murder in the second-degree Thursday afternoon.
The verdict was unanimous, however the jury was hung on other sentencing options that included reckless manslaughter and assault in the first and second degree.
"[The jury] acquitted agent Deedy of murder," said defense attorney Thomas Otake. "They took an oath to do what was right and they did."
The jury had been deliberating for more than a week in the retrial of the State Department special agent, who shot and killed 23-year-old Kollin Elderts during a November 2011 altercation at a Waikiki McDonald's. Another set of jurors deadlocked nearly a year ago in Deedy's first trial.
On Thursday, the new jury's forewoman told Judge Karen Ahn that more time might help jurors agree after they sent a note saying it wouldn't. When Ahn polled the jurors, only four disagreed that more time could help them change their minds.
Deedy's attorney meanwhile said he would invoke a precedent-setting case by the Hawaii Supreme Court to dismiss any additional charges against Deedy. Known as the "State versus Moriwake," the 1982 case places a burden on prosecutors to show why a third trial could produce a different result.
Before dismissing any charges against Deedy, the court must consider the severity of the charged offense, the number of prior mistrials and circumstances of jury deliberations, and the character of prior trials in terms of length, complexity and similarity of evidence presented.
"We firmly believe that there are legal motions we can file to dispose of those charges, and that this case should not ever have to go to trial again," Otake told reporters outside the courtroom.
However, Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa appears undeterred and said the state may pursue manslaughter and assault charges against Deedy that could put him in jail for more than 20 years.
"I think given the seriousness of the offense, whatever the jury verdict may have been this time, I think that definitely it calls for another trial," said Futa. "I believe that Kollin Elderts and his family and his friends and our community deserve that kind of justice (or) at least a resolution."
Deedy was retried nearly a year after another jury was unable to agree on a verdict and Ahn declared a mistrial.
Ahn ruled the current jury could consider a lesser charge of manslaughter, however the previous jury wasn't given that option and could only consider murder in the second-degree.
Deedy, 30, of Arlington, Virginia, says he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Kollin Elderts while on Oahu for the APEC summit. The prosecution says he was drunk, inexperienced and acted recklessly. Deedy's defense countered that Elderts was the aggressor and was legally drunk. Otake also presented evidence that Elderts had cocaine byproducts in his system.
The Elderts family left the courtroom visibly upset as proceeding were still underway. A family spokesperson read the following statement to reporters:
"Nothing will ever bring Kollin back to us. We will never hear his contagious laugh, feel his touch, hear his voice or see his future children. The hole in our hearts from the loss of Kollin can never be mended. Christopher Deedy is a very irresponsible, cowardly individual that took away the heartbeat of our family and forever changed us. Because of the poor decisions he made that tragic night, including drinking and walking out on our Waikiki streets with a loaded personal firearm, we can never forgive him. Moving forward, our mission is to make sure this never happens to another one of our sons or daughters here in Hawaii. We will continue to work with all the groups and individuals that have supported us since our tragic loss of Kollin to ensure that no other parent will ever need to suffer through this loss again. In honor of Kollin, we are currently working on a new law, which we hope to call 'The Kollin Elderts Law,' that will make it illegal for any public servant, such as officers or agents, from consuming any amount of alcohol while carrying a firearm whether on or off duty. If this new law saves the life of just one person, Kollin's short life will not be lost in vain."
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