The City and County of Honolulu won’t pursue assault charges against Christopher Deedy, a federal agent who fatally shot a Hawaii resident in a Waikiki McDonald’s in 2011.
Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm said Monday he decided not to pursue a third trial in Deedy’s case based on the outcome of two previous trials, which, respectively, resulted in Deedy being acquitted of murder charges and juries unable to reach a decision on other felony charges.
The prosecutor also weighed Hawaii case law dealing with hung juries and considered all the evidence the office gathered in its decade-long effort to see Deedy behind bars.
Alm said he didn’t find enough evidence to justify taking the case to trial a third time.
“The job of the prosecutor’s office is to do justice, not win cases,” Alm said during a news conference. “Enough already.”
Deedy was an agent on security detail during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, or APEC. One night during the conference he shot Kollin Elderts in a Waikiki McDonald’s after a night of bar-hopping.
Deedy has claimed he shot Elderts in self defense. Prosecutors have said both men had been drinking at the time of the shooting.
In July the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that prosecutors could pursue a third trial, but only for the assault charges. The 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court have previously denied petitions from the prosecutor’s office to also pursue manslaughter charges.
Alm said that evidence in a third trial would likely be the same as the evidence presented in the first two trials. In Hawaii, first degree assault with a firearm is a class B felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Felony charges require prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Alm didn’t feel his office could do that in Deedy’s case.
“The overwhelming likely result is another hung jury,” Alm said.
Alm declined to speculate on how much money the office has spent on pursuing the case all these years. Alm said he would pursue the case if he had the evidence to support assault charges, but doesn’t feel enough evidence exists to do so.
Alm said he spoke to the Elderts family before announcing his decision. He said they were not pleased.
He said he also weighed the likelihood that jurors would convict a law enforcement officer.
“This is Hawaii,” Alm said. “A lot of people know somebody in law enforcement or are related to somebody in law enforcement. So, generally, the jurors are likely to give the benefit of doubt to law enforcement.”
Thomas Otake, Deedy’s attorney, said his client was “extremely relieved” to hear the news Monday. He thanked Alm for not pursuing another trial.
“It’s inherently unfair to continually try someone over and over again,” Otake said.
But the defense attorney said it’s not a day for anyone to celebrate, and noted the loss that Elderts’ family experienced when he died.
“We’re mindful of that loss,” Otake said. “There’s really no winners in a case like this.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell