A convicted killer from Maui will remain behind bars after he was unable to convince a federal judge he was the victim of a vast conspiracy to keep him locked up for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra issued a ruling saying that Taryn Christian was unable to prove any “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” in a case that has spanned nearly 20 years.

Taryn Christian, left, says he's innocent of the murder of Vilmar Cabaccang. He blames James Burkhart, right, for the killing. The composite sketch was created based on witness descriptions.

Taryn Christian, left, says he’s innocent of the murder of Vilmar Cabaccang. He blames James Burkhart, right, for the killing. The composite sketch was created based on witness descriptions.

Christian was convicted in 1997 of second degree murder for the 1995 stabbing death of Vilmar Cabaccang in Kihei, and sentenced to a minimum of 40 years behind bars. Christian, however, has claimed innocence from the beginning, saying it was another man, James “Hina” Burkhart, who killed Cabaccang. Burkhart, who was initially a suspect in the murder, declined to testify at Christian’s trial, invoking the Fifth Amendment.

For two decades, Christian has filed numerous appeals and motions in state and federal courts in hopes of securing his freedom, but with little success. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on the case.

Christian’s last-ditch effort was to convince Ezra that previous judicial decisions had been based on false and misleading information presented by Maui police, prosecutors and county attorneys who argued to keep him in prison.

Several pieces of key evidence had disappeared during the course of Christian’s case, including police reports, surveillance video and other items containing DNA evidence that could potentially prove Burkhart was at the crime scene.

An eyewitness to the crime also recanted his identification of Christian at the crime scene the night of the murder.

U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra said Taryn Christian doesn't have the evidence to show the courts were duped by Maui officials who were trying to keep him behind bars for murder.

U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra said Taryn Christian doesn’t have the evidence to show the courts were duped by Maui officials who were trying to keep him behind bars for murder.

U.S. District Court — Hawaii

Ezra, however, was unconvinced by these arguments, saying there was little evidence that Maui officials had deliberately attempted to cover-up, hide or destroy evidence that potentially could exonerate Christian.

There’s an incredibly high threshold to prove fraud, Ezra said in his 52-page ruling, and it usually entails showing there was a deliberate scheme on the part of Maui officials to dupe the courts into making its decisions.

Ezra also ruled that much of the “new” evidence — such as the revelation that an eyewitness was having second thoughts about identifying Christian at the crime scene — had been known to the courts in previous proceedings and therefore was not relevant to the case.

UPDATE

Christian’s attorney, Gary Modafferi said he plans to appeal Ezra’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Hawaii Innocence Project is also working on the case.

“I’m not giving up on this,” Modafferi said. “It’s our last gasp for freedom and somebody’s got to stand up and say this man is innocent. Give us a trial.”

Modafferi also said he plans to ask Hawaii Attorney General to investigate how the Christian case was handled in light of allegations involving missing evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.

Maui County Deputy Corporation Moana Luty, who argued the case on behalf of the state, was unavailable to comment Monday.

Read Ezra’s ruling here:

Ezra-Ruling (Text)

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