Supreme Court to weigh in on police shooting accomplice case

  • Jorge Pagan-Torres appears in District Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • MALIA LAJALA
  • Krystle Ferreira
  • Jamie Jason

KAILUA-KONA — Prosecutors are seeking relief from the Hawaii Supreme Court in the case of four of the seven defendants accused of aiding accused cop killer Justin Waiki.

Jamie Jason, Krystle Ferreira, Malia Lajala and Jorge Pagan-Torres are charged with two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver.

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Jason is additionally charged with two firearms offenses, ownership or possession prohibited fugitive. Lajala faces an additional charge of third-degree promoting a dangerous drug.

Trial for the four conspirators was scheduled for June 27 in Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim’s courtroom, however, trial cannot begin until the prosecution’s petition for writ of mandamus is decided by the Supreme Court.

A writ of mandamus is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.

The legal wrangling began with Jason filing a motion to suppress statements made to police. Kim granted the motion, thereby precluding evidence for use at the trial in this case against the remaining defendants. Kim also ruled that statements made by the other defendants were still admissible.

Prosecutors filed a notice of appeal to the Intermediate Court of Appeals on June 18, the same day the order granting the suppression was filed.

It is the prosecutor’s stand that once an appeal is filed, all Circuit Court proceedings must be suspended and jurisdiction of the case be turned over to the appeals court until it returns a decision.

Kim mandated trial to begin for Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres on June 27.

Previous requests for severance, or trying the four defendants separately, have been denied.

At a hearing on June 24, Kim discussed the issue of jurisdiction with the parties. Prosecutors argued that Kim did not have jurisdiction to rule on motions to continue trial or sever defendants because its on appeal.

The defense argued that the appeal only applied to Jason, not the case in whole, so the remaining defendants should be severed and stand trial as scheduled.

Kim ruled that despite the notice of appeal, he retained jurisdiction over the case.

Prosecutors are seeking the Hawaii Supreme Court to prohibit the 3rd Circuit Court from retaining jurisdiction of the entire case “because statutorily this is prohibited.”

“Despite the filing of the notice of appeal, the trial court is continuing to hold hearings and appears to (be) taking action consistent with the court’s belief that it retains jurisdiction over the case,” states the prosecutor’s petition to the high court. “The case being appealed includes all remaining defendants involve one case.”

“The state seeks relief from this (Supreme) court to find that the trial Court exceeded its jurisdiction when it held hearings on June 24, 2019 ruling on substantive motions without leave from the appellate court to do so,” stated Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kauanoe Jackson in her declaration.

The Supreme Court has ordered suspension of any proceedings until it renders a decision.

The four individuals are accused of assisting Waiki while he was running from authorities after reportedly shooting and killing Hawaii Police Department Officer Bronson Kaliloa in Mountain View on July 17, 2018.

Jason along with Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres were with Waiki the day he was caught by officers on July 20. They were traveling together on South Point Road when they were stopped at a police checkpoint.

During a search of the vehicle, Waiki was found hiding in the back with Jason. After he shot at officers, police returned fire. Waiki died from gunshot wounds. Jason also suffered a gunshot wound and one officer was injured, but has since recovered.

Also charged in connection with the case were Kyle Brende, Mokihana Veincent and Taumi Carr. Their cases were severed from the other four defendants and they are to stand trial separately.

Recently, Brende pleaded guilty to first-degree hindering prosecution and will be sentenced Aug. 26.

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Veincent changed her plea to guilty of first-degree hindering prosecution on Wednesday. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Carr is charged with two counts first-degree hindering prosecution. Her trial is set for Aug. 20.

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