Above all, this is not about secrecy. The prosecutor’s office has no objection to releasing the video once the case goes to trial. In temporarily sealing the video, Judge Ahn made the right decision in the interest of justice.
The prosecutor strongly believes that pre-trial release of the video can only result in prejudicing the proceedings.
To be clear: This isn’t a witness statement. This isn’t a 911 recording. This isn’t video of a doomed Trayvon Martin buying a bag of Skittles and walking away into the night. This is a killing caught on camera.
Given the emotionally-charged nature of this case, we don’t think it is a stretch to say that the video will be seen by most people in Hawaii within a day — if not hours — of release.
Since there is no audio, the images play out in a vacuum and will fuel rather than dampen speculation. Without the context and descriptions provided in court by witnesses and experts, people will see what they want to see. And just as online dissemination is instantaneous, so is comment-board judgment.
Which brings us to Civil Beat’s conclusion that the video must be favorable to Christopher Deedy because his lawyer wants it released.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Deedy, a federal agent, wants his case taken out of the hands of a state jury and heard in federal court, before a federal judge. In seeking a change of venue, his lawyer — who wants to have questionnaires sent to potential jurors as trial nears — would have to show that the jury pool was tainted.
Ironically, in the days after the shooting, Deedy’s lawyer, Brook Hart, told Civil Beat’s Michael Levine, “It wouldn’t be appropriate for police or the prosecutor to put discovery out to the public. … Trying the case in the media is not appropriate.”
So why is the release of discovery (which is what the video is at this time; it is not yet evidence) now appropriate?
More to the state’s point, what do the video and Hart’s version of the incident have to do with the motion to dismiss based on federal immunity? If the claim is that Deedy was acting in his capacity as a federal agent assigned to diplomatic security when he walked into the Waikiki McDonald’s at 2:30 a.m. after a night out with friends, wouldn’t a more logical attachment be something from the State Department confirming his status?
Finally, as to Civil Beat’s notion that the public “ought to have the right to see what the state has on this guy and make up their own minds,” the public’s right to view public records is not being denied in any way. Trial proceedings are open and everything that comes out in court is public record.
But “make up their own minds”? If that should be the case, why even bother with judicial process? Let’s publicly release all allegations and discovery and put up an online poll: Was Christopher Deedy justified, or is it murder? In some ways, that is exactly what this argument is about.
Fortunately, there are judicial rules of procedure and conduct meant to guarantee the right to a fair trial. The prosecutor’s office is determined to follow these rules in seeking justice. Judge Ahn’s decision helps to ensure the integrity of the trial process.
About the author:Dave Koga is the spokesman for the Honolulu prosecutor’s office.
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