Deadlocked jury forces retrial in federal agent murder case
Nearly six days of deliberations result in hung jury
Exactly seven weeks after the trial began, a judge declared a mistrial in the murder trial of Special Agent Christopher Deedy, after jurors said they were deadlocked.
“We have unanimously decided that the jury does not have a verdict. Further deliberations will not resolve our impasse,” said Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn, reading a note from a jury of eight men and four women.
Even before the jury entered the courtroom, Judge Karen Ahn dropped the bomb: the end result of 20 days of testimony and nearly six days of deliberations was a deadlocked jury.
Moments later, Deedy's attorney, Brook Hart, spoke out.
“Mr. Deedy objects to taking a verdict of ‘hopelessly deadlocked,’” said Hart.
Hart said he believes the court could have done more to avoid an impasse.
That lead to one last debate in judge Ahn’s courtroom, with Deedy and families waiting in angst for 20 minutes more, before jurors returned resolute, that indeed there would be no decision and a new trial.
“I’m very disappointed,” said deputy prosecutor Janice Futa, after the verdict was read.
“My reaction is agent Deedy is not guilty, pled not guilty, and the jury did not find him guilty so he has another day in court,” said Hart outside the courtroom.
Deedy has maintained that on Nov. 5, 2011, he shot and killed Kollin Elderts in self-defense after Elderts attacked him and his friend at a Waikiki McDonald's.
Prosecutors said it was inexperience, ego and alcohol led that agent Deedy to pull his weapon and fire three shots.
On Monday, jurors could not decide on whether to convict Deedy of second-degree murder or acquit him -- surprising legal experts that nothing else was up for debate.
“Was it ever considered to include lesser charges?” asked KITV reporter Lara Yamada.
“Not based upon the evidence, no,” said Futa.
“Usually in these matters where there are other options sometimes people reach agreement,” said Hart.
Soon, Deedy will return to work as a special agent for the U.S. State Department, with this grueling trial not easily be forgotten.
Ahn said she would like to schedule a new trial sometime in May or June 2014.
Attorneys meet Friday afternoon to solidify a date.
“I think a retrial is a new slate and what every happens will be totally new, presumably,” said Futa.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a national law enforcement support group, released a statement on Monday:
“The Federal Law Enforcement Association (FLEOA) announced its respect for the jury process and verdict reached, but maintains that Special Agent Christopher Deedy performed heroically and is innocent of the charges he faced.
“FLEOA resents the prosecutor’s unprofessional characterization of Special Agent Deedy as a ‘bully with a badge.’ In fact, the prosecutor’s courtroom antics made it clear who the real bully is in this case. Special Agent Deedy is nothing shy of Valor with a Badge who performed an unselfish act of protecting the life of others as well as his own.”
Following the declaration of a mistrial, the family of Kollin Elderts declined to comment about the trial.
Deedy and his family left the building through a secure corridor while none of the 12 jurors agreed to speak to the media.
Elderts family has retained an attorney to possibly file a civil suit against Deedy.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2011, the lively buzz at a Waikiki McDonald's erupted into a deadly rumble as Special Agent Christopher Deedy and friends, Kollin Elderts and Shane Medeiros, crossed paths and then clashed.
Since day one of Deedy's murder trial, prosecutors have focused heavily on how much he had to drink, whether he was in any position to be carrying a gun, and why he didn't choose to simply back away.
Defense attorneys have argued the decorated agent was doing his job - to serve and protect - and was forced to take deadly action.
"The defendant was fueled by alcohol, primed by warnings given to him about the hostile locals, and ignited by the power of his Glock," began deputy prosecutor Janice Futa during opening statements in early July.
Deedy was on assignment in Honolulu as a federal agent for security detail during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, in late 2011.
The 29-year-old resident of Arlington, Va., claimed self-defense caused him to shoot and kill 23-year-old Elderts of Kailua.
"This case, ladies and gentlemen, is about self defense and the defense of others," began defense attorney Brook Hart.
Throughout the trial, what Deedy and Elderts consumed was in constant question.
""When (Deedy) spoke I could smell (alcohol) on his breath," testified Honolulu Police Department Evidence Specialist Toy Stech.
So all three substances were present simultaneously," defense attorney Karl Blanke asked medical examiner Kanthi De Alwis. "Yes," said De Alwis.
Alcohol was considered a possible player in the McDonald's confrontation that soon followed:
"So it went from joking, to bothering, to annoying, and then bullying. Is that what you saw?" defense attorney Brook Hart asked McDonald's security guard Rosalinda Soriano.
"Correct sir,” said Soriano, remembering what appeared to be harassment of customer Michel Perrine.
"I noticed this guy (Perrine) still staring, so I said 'Do you have an F-ing problem? We told you we were just joking around with you, why still staring?'" said Elderts' friend Shane Medeiros.
Deedy testified he noticed the moment Elderts and Medeiros walked in, stepping in; when he said they kept harassing Perrine.
"It's your testimony that not at any point that night did you see Deedy show his badge?" Blanke asked Medeiros. "Never," Medeiros said.
"I told him I'm a cop and he's going to get arrested. As I said that, I reached back, opened (my wallet) up and displayed (my law enforcement ID) to him," said Deedy.
"I heard (Deedy) say, 'Acting like this will get you shot. You don't feel like getting shot do you?'" Medeiros testified.
"At this point, I just felt like I couldn't say anything else. They were arguing and I figured if they're going to fight they're going to fight," said Alexander Byrd, a customer at McDonald's the morning of the fight.
And fight they did. But who threw the first blow, who started what, has been hotly debated.
"I don't remember much of anything except getting hit in the head pretty hard," said Deedy's friend Adam Gutowski, who testified that Elderts and Medeiros both rushed him first.
"Both Kollin and Shane are beating him, he's getting beaten, kicked on the ground," said Gutowski's girlfriend Jessica West, who was with Gutowski and Deedy all night.
First, Gutowski appeared to be in the fray, then Deedy. That exchange with Elderts ended in shots fired.
"(Elderts) was delivering the blows. He would come back and down back and down," testified Deedy, making a punching gesture.
"When you pulled the trigger you intended to kill Mr. Elderts, correct?" asked Futa.
"I intended to stop the threat," answered Deedy.
"After those shots were fired what did Elderts do?" Hart asked Deedy.
"Stop. Instead of delivering the (next) punch he just came down on top me," said Deedy.
Then there were those vivid moments in the aftermath: Deedy aiding a dying Elderts, covered in blood at the emergency room, and realizing the weight of what happened that night.
"I'd just fought for my life, and I believe I'd just killed a man, and I'd just been put under arrest for murder," he recalled.
In closing arguments, both sides zeroed in on the spark that ignited the fight and how it escalated into tragedy.
"Add to that, alcohol and inexperience in the mix and it's why the defendant is here, driven by sense of hubris, nothing more than a bully with a badge," said Futa.
"There is no doubt that Agent Deedy shot and killed Kollin Elderts. That's a fact and nobody disputes it. But it does not mean special agent Deedy murdered Kollin Elderts. Special Agent Deedy's intent was not to kill Kollin Elderts. His intent was to protect life. His intent was to stop the threat," said Blanke.
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