Cocaine use by shooting victim could be submitted as evidence in retrial of federal agent
The retrial of 30-year-old federal agent Christopher Deedy for the November 2011 shooting death of Kollin Elderts is growing contentious even before a new jury is seated.
On Wednesday, Deedy's lead attorney Thomas Otake and deputy prosecutor Janice Futa both provided testimony from forensic pathologists on whether Elderts was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the deadly confrontation inside a Waikiki McDonalds. That testimony was also allowed in Deedy's original trial last year, which ended in a mistrial when a jury of eight men and four women failed to reach a consensus.
According to an autopsy report, cocaine was not present in Elderts' bloodstream, but cocaine byproducts were found inside his vitreous humour, a gel-like substance that fills the space between the lens and retina of the eyeball. Laboratory testing showed the presence of benzoylecgonine, cocaine's major metabolite, and cocaethylene, which is formed when alcohol and cocaine mix.
Dr. Jonathan Arden, of Arden Forensics, in Virginia testified for Deedy's defense. He said the presence of both substances indicates Elderts, 23, was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the shooting.
"It is my opinion Mr. Elderts was indeed under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the incident," Arden told the court.
Elderts blood alcohol level was tested at 0.12, or 50 percent more than the 0.08 allowed by law. He was also found to have marijuana in his system. Meanwhile, Deedy was bar-hopping with friends before the early morning shooting on Nov. 5, but said he only had some beer and was not drunk.
The prosecution provided its own expert Wednesday to counter testimony provided by Arden. Dr. Clifford Nelson, Oregon's deputy medical examiner, said the amount of cocaethylene found in Elderts' system was so insignificant, that one could not definitively say whether Elderts was under the influence of cocaine. He also stated the presence of benzoylecgonine in Elderts' vitreous humour could not be used as evidence that he was experiencing the effects of cocaine use.
"That's an assumption that you can't make," said Nelson.
Judge Karen Ahn, who administered Deedy's first murder trial, took Wednesday's expert testimony under advisement. She said she could have a ruling as soon as Thursday on whether the issue of cocaine use by Elderts can be submitted by Deedy's defense.
Deedy, 30, was in Hawaii as a State Department special agent ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu. He had been warned by a fellow agent to be on guard for aggressive locals who sometimes target Caucasians, also known as haoles.
CORRECTION: The original story stated evidence of Elderts' cocaine use was not allowed in the first trial.
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