Juror reveals challenges, conflicts in federal agent murder trial

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Dec 23 2013 11:30:45 PM HST
Updated On: Aug 27 2013 10:46:37 PM HST

It was an unprecedented trial that spanned a month and a half with wall-to-wall media coverage and a witness list a mile long.

HONOLULU -

It was an unprecedented trial, spanning a month and a half, with wall-to-wall media coverage and a witness list a mile long. For the jury of teachers, engineers, and government workers, this was a job that stretched their patience and tested their souls.

PART ONE:

"When we were deliberating, it was getting heated! We were like what are you doing? Why!?" began juror and foreman Justin Odagiri. At just 30-years-old, he became the manager and the unifier for the 12 people tasked with deciding Special Agent Christopher Deedy's fate.

"Every day, I came home exhausted, because were arguing every day with people for seven hours. It was just draining," he said.

He said they entered with an open mind and determined to listen to what each and every one had to say, but the graphic images quickly weighed on jurors, especially knowing Kollin Elderts' family was watching too.

"That video just keeps playing for all of us. We're all saying we don't want to ever eat McDonald's again, if you know what I mean," he said.

Odagiri said during nearly six days of deliberations, for the first few days it was an even split: six-six.

But by last Wednesday, one juror had changed their mind while another stood undecided.

And he said that's how it stayed.

"We kept doing votes throughout it," Odagiri said.

He said they communicated five times with Judge Karen Ahn; asking her about self-defense, letting them know when jurors were sick, and by Monday morning, sending their fourth communication, to tell Ahn they were deadlocked.

"We didn't reach a conclusion, but it was good to see that everyone stood their ground, even though it would have been nice to reach a verdict," he said.

Odagiri said this was his second stint as a juror.

Despite the grueling seven-week experience, he said he was glad to be part of such an important case, as another jury prepares for their chance to decide.

"Go do your civil duty, sit through that, and maybe you'll have a different view on how the law works," he said.

Odagiri said after word they were deadlocked, Judge Ahn asked jurors to keep deliberating, and they did, for a few more hours, with no luck.

Still, he said he's proud of his fellow jurors, and despite heated arguments in the deliberating room, outside they treated each other like family.

Jury Seat

Jury foreman from Deedy Trial speaks

For the jury of Hawaii teachers, engineers, and government workers, the  Deedy Trial was a job that stretched their patience and tested their souls.

PART TWO:

12 minds, a mountain of evidence, and the task of coming to one conclusion.

KITV4 talked a juror in the murder trial of special agent Christopher Deedy.

Imagine a dozen people with different backgrounds and opinions, forced to decide one man's future, in a highly-charged case.

Reporter Lara Yamada talked to one juror, who opened the door to the challenges, the conflicts, and the critical points that ultimately led to a hung jury.

"He did kill him that's not a question," said juror and foreman Justin Odagiri.

He said even though jurors watched the same video over and over some saw it differently.

Odagiri said evidence and testimony left plenty of room for debate and for major sticking points.

"There was no audio in the video, and it's all what people say, and everybody said something different," he said.

At the forefront: was Special Agent Christopher Deedy drunk the night he shot and killed Kollin Elderts?

"And the hard part was that there was no test, so it was all about what people said. It came down to what people thought and how we viewed the video," said Odagiri.

And second: after the fight started was deadly force really necessary?

Odagiri said jurors struggled with what seemed to be minor injuries on Deedy and his friend Adam Gutowski and how that would justify firing a gun.

"That was the hard part, because the way the law is written, it doesn't say 'if you receive this, you can use the force.' You know, it's perceived by the person who's getting attacked," he said.

They had two choices: convict Deedy of murder or set him free.

In the end, they couldn't do either, ending in deadlock with eight to acquit and to convict.

He said jurors didn't really spend time talking about whether lesser charges would have made a difference and he said he's not sure if it would've mattered.

"It kind of opens my eyes that, if you use that deadly force you need to be positive," Odagiri emphasized.

He said as a gun owner, this trial, the tragedy and the outcome, will forever play on his mind.

"It's a very fine line on whether it's self-defense, especially when you're using deadly force. That will stick out to me the most, how it can go either way," said Odagiri.
 

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