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Honolulu prosecutor won't pursue another Christopher Deedy trial

Steve Alm.jpg
Casey Harlow
/
HPR
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm holds a press conference Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Alm announced his office will not pursue a third trial against Christopher Deedy for a 2011 fatal shooting.

Honolulu prosecutor Steve Alm announced Monday his office will not pursue a third trial against Christopher Deedy for a fatal shooting in 2011.

"This office has had two full chances to convict Christopher Deedy, they were unsuccessful," he said.

"The prosecutor's job is to convince all 12 jurors of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And after hearing the evidence in both cases, with arguments by good attorneys on both sides... the state was unable to prevail at convicting Mr. Deedy."

Deedy was a U.S. State Department special agent providing security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit in 2011. While off duty, Deedy shot and killed Kollin Elderts during a late-night altercation at a McDonald's in Waikiki.

He claims he shot Elderts in self-defense.

Prosecutors have said Deedy was drunk, inexperienced and fueled by warnings from a fellow agent that Hawaiʻi locals are hostile toward federal workers and outsiders.

Deedy was tried twice for murder in 2013 and 2014. The first ended in a mistrial, and a jury acquitted him of murder in the second trial.

But the jury couldn't agree on convicting Deedy on manslaughter and assault charges.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court overturned a federal judge's decision preventing prosecutors from trying Deedy a third time. However, a third trial would be based on two assault charges.

Deedy’s attorneys have argued a third trial would violate the U.S. Constitution's double jeopardy clause.

“I think it hasn't sunk in yet” for Deedy, who remains employed by the State Department, said his attorney, Thomas Otake. Deedy and his family "went to bed every night the last 10 years wondering if he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Alm says he considered many factors when coming to his decision — most weighed against a retrial.

Among the factors, include:

  • The number of prior mistrials, and the circumstances of the jury deliberations
  • The likelihood of any substantial difference in a third trial
  • The severity of the offense charged

Alm told reporters based on the previous trials, a retrial would not likely yield a different result.

"In both cases, the evidence presented at trial was virtually the same," said Alm. "And given that the evidence in the third trial is likely to be the same, the overwhelming likely result is another hung jury."

Alm says he did speak with Elderts' mother and brother about his decision. He says they were unhappy, and were hoping there would be another trial.

“We believe that an assault conviction would have been possible in this new era in which the murder of George Floyd and the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement helped reveal a consistent pattern of law enforcement brutality and a belief that they could kill with impunity," said Dr. Kalamaokaʻaina Niheu, spokesperson for the Justice for Kollin Elderts Coalition.

Public sentiment toward killings by law enforcement officers may have changed in the past 10 years in other parts of the U.S., but not in Hawaiʻi, Alm said, adding that didn't factor into his decision.

“So generally, the jurors are likely to give the benefit of the doubt to law enforcement,” Alm said of Hawaiʻi juries.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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