Honolulu Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn definitely brought her White Out to work. And it looks like she spilled it.
Ahn is overseeing the Christopher Deedy murder trial, and this week she released a heavily redacted version of a defense motion that argues the case against the federal agent should be dismissed because he was acting as a law enforcement officer when he shot and killed Kailua resident Kollin Elderts in a Waikiki McDonald’s last November.
Last week, Ahn ruled she would release the motion with omissions she thought were important to ensure a fair trial. She also sealed exhibits to the motion she felt would go viral and be prejudicial to the prosecution. Those exhibits included surveillance video taken in the McDonald’s and a cell phone video shot by a passerby.
Her decision came after the prosecution, headed by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa, convinced Ahn that the information could taint a potential jury pool.
Deedy’s attorney, Brook Hart, argued otherwise, as did the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, it’s television affiliate, Hawaii News Now, and the online media outlet, Hawaii Reporter.
Ahn’s redactions in Hart’s motion to dismiss the case seem to focus on the defense attorney’s description of what led up to the confrontation between Deedy and Elderts and events that ensued afterwards.
It’s hard to say with any certainty, though, considering it’s been largely whited out save for a few citations. Consider trying to read a book with many of the pages torn out. One redacted section even omitted a time reference in one of the sealed video exhibits.
“The time stamp on the McDonald’s surveillance video is approximately (redacted) official Hawaii Standard Time.”
What remains in the motion, however, is Hart’s argument that the case should be dismissed before trial based on the “Supremacy Clause,” a federal law that provides federal agents immunity from state prosecution.
Under that law, Hart says “federal officials acting within the scope of their federal employment are immune from state prosecution for any action they take that they reasonably believe is necessary and proper to the performance of their federal functions.”
Deedy, who was in Honolulu as part of a U.S. State Department security detail for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, was out “socializing” with two friends the night he shot Elderts.
But in the dismissal motion, Hart says that even off-duty agents can be covered by the supremacy clause if they are witnessing a crime and believe they’re acting in their professional capacity.
“It also covers unauthorized and even unlawful conduct arising from honest mistakes and errors in judgement,” Hart wrote. “It does not matter that the conduct may later be determined to have been unjustified; it matters only that the officer reasonably believed that the conduct was necessary and appropriate at the time.”
Hart’s motion won’t be heard until July. At that time Ahn might decide to release the unredacted motion and the exhibits. In her ruling sealing those records, she also said she could wait until trial to unseal the records. Deedy’s trial is currently scheduled for September, but Hart has requested an extension to March.
Part of the reason Ahn wanted the records sealed, in particular the videos, is because she was concerned about the effect of the Internet and the likelihood that the images would spread quickly including to potential jurors. People would be speculating about what they showed and it could be difficult to find jurors that hadn’t been influenced by them. Ahn is a former TV journalist and has said she believes images — still or moving — can have special resonance.
DISCUSSION Do you think Christopher Deedy should be immune from prosecution if he was acting as a law enforcement officer?