Jury begins deliberations in murder trial

  • West Hawaii Today photo

    The prosecution completed its cross-examination of Eber Miranda-Garcia on Friday morning.

KEALAKEKUA — The fate of two brothers accused of murder is now in the hands of a jury.

For the past several weeks, testimony has been given and evidence submitted in Kona Circuit Court in the case against Eber and Marlon Miranda-Garcia, both of whom are charged with second-degree murder. The brothers are accused of killing their landlord, Dolores “Lolo” Borja-Valle, whose body was found Aug. 9, 2015, in a Captain Cook coffee field off Keopuka Mauka Road.

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On Friday, the jury was instructed to look at Marlon Miranda-Garcia as an accomplice.

The prosecution and defense also delivered their closing arguments Friday. Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson addressed the court first.

Lawson said the case boils down to the physical evidence, cooperation, corroboration and technology.

“You apply your reason and common sense and you’ll come to the conclusion that Eber and Marlon Miranda-Garcia killed Lolo,” she said.

Lawson said there are no smoke or mirrors in this case. She asked the jury to look at it all together to get a picture of what happened.

Lawson drew the jury’s attention to Eber Miranda-Garcia’s confession in June 2017, when he was initially arrested for the crime.

“If you look closely at the investigation, Eber’s confession lines up with the physical evidence,” she said.

Physical evidence being that Eber Miranda-Garcia lured Borja-Valle out of his house because there was a pig nearby and struck him in the head several times with rocks.

Lawson added the injuries to Borja-Valle’s head are corroborated by the medical examiner, who also provided testimony during the trial.

“The CAST reports, that’s what brought this case together,” the prosecutor said, referring to the FBI’s Cellular Analysis Team and the collection of phone records at two phone towers during the time of Borja-Valle’s death.

Testimony revealed Marlon Miranda-Garcia’s phone connected to his brother’s phone several times at the tower in the vicinity where Borja-Valle’s body was found and again where the decedent’s truck was abandoned in Ocean View.

Police testified that the brothers gave them information in August 2015 that they were home the night Borja-Valle died. In June 2017, Eber Miranda-Garcia denied to detectives his and his family’s involvement. Through the course of the trial a video recording was played in court that shows the 28-year-old confessing to the murder.

According to the video, Eber Miranda-Garcia killed Borja-Valle after the 69-year-old threatened to turn him in to immigration and take his wife and daughter away from him.

However, during the course of the trial, both men took the stand in their defense. Marlon Miranda-Garcia said he went to Las Martas but ended up picking up a hitchhiker and driving down past Hookena. Eber Miranda-Garcia stated he went to the Korner Pocket, an establishment in Kealakekua, where he played pool and drank throughout the night.

“If you use your common sense and reason, there was no hitchhiker. There was no Korner Pocket,” Lawson said. “There was an attempt to cover up the crime.”

Deputy Public Defender Wendy DeWeese, counsel for Marlon Miranda-Garcia, next addressed the jury.

She told the jury that her client didn’t have to testify, but he did.

“He wanted you to know what he was doing that day and why,” DeWeese said.

DeWeese stated there is a presumption of innocence and the jury only needs one reason for doubt to find her client not guilty.

“There’s no physical evidence, there’s no murder weapon, we don’t even have a murder scene,” she said.

DeWeese added the government would like the jury to believe Marlon Miranda-Garcia participated in killing Borja-Valle.

“They want you to believe this with Marlon not leaving any DNA,” she said.

DeWeese reminded the jury that experts during trial showed that her client’s DNA had not been found on Borja-Valle’s body or in his abandoned truck.

“It defies logic, it defies common sense,” she said.

Marlon Miranda-Garcia, DeWeese continued, had no motive. There were no witnesses who saw him with Eber Miranda-Garcia the night Borja-Valle died.

DeWeese also addressed the CAST records.

“If the brothers are together disposing a body, why are they talking on the phone?” she asked.

DeWeese added that the police did a random tower dump on Verizon towers and didn’t check the other mobile carriers.

Defense attorney Terri Fujioka-Lilley, counsel for Eber Miranda-Garcia, followed DeWeese. She drew the jury’s attention to the police investigation.

“Why wasn’t it important to check any other phones?” she asked, reminding the jury that 45 additional phone numbers also were found active in the areas the night Borja-Valle died and in Ocean View where his truck was abandoned.

Fujioka-Lilley also questioned why police couldn’t get out of their vehicles to further investigate coffee fields Borja-Valle was known to work instead of driving around them.

The attorney again drew the jury to the question of why wasn’t it important for police to follow up on leads, that for two years went unfollowed.

“There’s confession that can’t excuse the failure of the investigation,” Fujioka-Lilley said. “That confession does not ring true.”

Fujioka-Lilley added that Hawaii Police Department Detective David Matsushima directed the forensics lab to test the butt of a rifle after talking to Eber Miranda-Garcia and learning he used it. The rifle was collected at the scene where Borja-Valle’s body was found.

The rifle, she added, has no apparent relationship to the murder.

“Police weren’t out to solve a murder — they were out to convict those they had arrested,” Fujioka-Lilley said. “If evidence proves anything, it proves the minimal, incompetent investigation on the part of the Hawaii Police Department.”

Because of that, the attorney said, it’s an injustice to Borja-Valle’s family who don’t have closure and an injustice to the Miranda-Garcia family.

Lawson had a chance for rebuttal.

The prosecutor said police didn’t make it to Borja-Valle’s residence until Aug. 10, 2015. There was time to clean up.

The investigation led police to people closest to Borja-Valle. Lawson said Eber and Marlon Miranda-Garcia had motive and opportunity.

Prior to closing arguments, Lawson cross-examined Eber Miranda-Garcia, who took the stand Thursday in his defense.

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The jury will return to court at 9 a.m. Monday to continue deliberations.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.

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