HONOLULU – The retrial of a federal agent charged with murder in Hawaii got underway Thursday with his new defense attorney telling jurors the defendant acted in line with his law enforcement training when he shot and killed a man inside a fast-food restaurant in 2011.
State Department Special Agent Christopher Deedy of Arlington, Virginia, was back at the defense table a year after his first trial ended with a deadlocked jury and a mistrial was declared.
Defense attorney Thomas Otake said during his opening statement that the then-27-year-old agent was protecting himself and others from an aggressive Kollin Elderts, who was shot during an early morning confrontation in a Waikiki McDonald's in November 2011.
Otake said it was best to begin at the end of the story, when Deedy found himself pinned under the wounded Elderts and tried to render aid.
After pushing Elderts off of him, Deedy got down on his knees and covered the wound, Otake said.
"He tried to stop the bleeding. He tried to save Mr. Elderts' life," the lawyer told jurors.
Judge Karen Ahn previously decided the current jury won't see the portion of a bystander's cellphone video showing Deedy trying to render the aid. The jury in the first trial did see the entire footage.
Otake replaced lawyer Brook Hart, who defended Deedy at his first trial.
The prosecution team remained the same.
In her opening statement, Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa echoed much of what she told jurors last year: Deedy was fueled by alcohol, power and a warning from a fellow agent about the hostility of Hawaii locals toward government employees and outsiders.
The prosecutor told jurors that Elderts, 23, of Kailua, was spending the night in Waikiki to celebrate the birthdays of friends. He was in a good mood when he and friend Shane Medeiros changed their minds about going to eat at Denny's and instead stopped at the McDonald's for a snack to end the night, Futa said.
"Neither Kollin nor Shane could know the tragic consequence of that decision," she said, explaining Elderts was shot within six minutes of entering the eatery.
Deedy unjustifiably used his firearm and intentionally killed Elderts, Futa said, adding that Deedy shouldn't have been drinking alcohol while armed, even if he was off-duty.
Otake acknowledged that Deedy had been drinking that night but said he knew his limits. He had been hand-selected to be in Honolulu to help provide security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the lawyer said.
The prosecution's first witness was Maile Goodhue, a friend of Elderts who was partying with him that night. She testified that Elderts had been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.
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