After Christopher Deedy’s first murder trial ended in a hung jury, many asked why the lesser charge of manslaughter wasn’t on the table. This time around, it will be.
On Friday, Judge Karen Ahn ruled jurors would be given the option of finding the special agent guilty of manslaughter in his re-trial.
According to Judge Ahn, testimony indicated that Deedy may have been reckless.
“In this new trial, we have some additional matters. Mr. Byrd testified that he ran away because the defendant was firing shots which were not hitting Elderts, but were going ‘just everywhere,'” Judge Ahn said.
According to Judge Ahn, there are also questions about the way Deedy held his gun when he fired the shots.
“A loose grip on the gun, under the new evidence, reduces control, making it harder to hit a target. The jury could believe the defendant’s grip on the gun was not as firm as it should be and the defendant reasonably should’ve known that, yet kept firing anyway,” Judge Ahn said.
Deedy’s attorney argued the special agent knew what he was doing when he fired the shots and there was nothing reckless about it.
“He made it very clear that he knew shooting someone in the heart, in the center mass, in the chest, was going to lead to death. And he said time and time again, it’s called deadly force for a reason, and I knew that’s what was going to happen,” said Thomas Otake, Deedy’s attorney.
Under Ahn’s ruling, jurors have the option to convict Deedy of either reckless manslaughter or extreme mental and emotional distress manslaughter instead of second-degree murder.
According to the court, each manslaughter charge would require different pieces of evidence to lead to a conviction.
Both, however, carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while second-degree murder could lead to a life sentence with possibility of parole.
So what does this mean for Deedy’s attorneys? A legal expert KHON2 spoke to says it will be a problem for them.
“I defended a lot of these cases and I don’t, from a defense standpoint, again, you don’t want manslaughter on the table,” said Ken Lawson, a former criminal defense attorney who now teaches at the University of Hawaii Richardon School of Law. “You want to stay as far away from manslaughter as you can. You want it all or nothing. You don’t want the jury to sit there and compromise.”
Even if Deedy is convicted of manslaughter, the defense still has options.
“If he was convicted of manslaughter, obviously, the defense would appeal and argue that the judge was in error giving the instruction and hopefully ask for a new trial,” Lawson said.
Judge Ahn is also considering the option of another lesser charge, assault in the first degree, but has yet to make a decision.
Closing arguments for the Deedy re-trial are scheduled for Tuesday and will be live streamed on KHON2.com.
After that, the jury will begin deliberations.