KAILUA-KONA — Jury selection began Tuesday for the trial of three people accused of aiding suspected cop killer Justin Waiki.
Krystle Ferreira, Malia Lajala and Jorge Pagan-Torres are standing trial at the new Keahuolu Courthouse in connection with the July 2018 murder of Hawaii Police Department Officer Bronson Kaliloa in Puna. The two women and man are each charged with two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver.
Trial is anticipated to last five weeks.
The state’s case against Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres was separated from a fourth defendant, Jamie Jason, in July. The four were set to go on trial June 27 before Kona Circuit Judge Robert D.S. Kim; however, arguments over appeals and jurisdiction delayed the matter.
The severance of Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres from the case came after prosecutors appealed a June 18 decision by Kim that suppressed statements made to police while Jason was in Hilo Medical Center with a gunshot wound inflicted during Waiki’s deadly encounter with police July 20, 2018.
Prosecutors that same day filed a notice of appeal to the Intermediate Court of Appeals of Kim’s order suppressing Jason’s statements.
On July 19, as Kim moved forward with severing Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres from the case to proceed with trial, prosecutors sought relief from the appeals court via a motion to instruct Kim to suspend all Circuit Court proceedings in the case amid the appeal.
Prosecutors even petitioned to the state Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus on June 25. 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 — in this case, that Kim retained jurisdiction over proceedings.
The high court considered the petition and denied it without prejudice on July 18, deferring to the appeals court as the proper avenue for decision.
A second petition to the high court July 29 was denied, meaning the court would not consider it.
The appeals court has yet to issue a ruling on the appeal of Kim’s order suppressing Jason’s statements. A motion to continue trial for Jason was granted in June, and a status conference is set for December.
However, Kim ruled Tuesday to allow Jason’s statements to be admissible in the case against Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres.
In the court order Kim in part states, “This court concluded that the state proved by a preponderance of the evidence that a conspiracy existed between defendants Jason, Pagan-Torres, Ferreira and Lajala to hide, move and conceal Justin Waiki from being apprehended and prosecuted for the murder of Hawaii County police officer Bronson Kaliloa.”
Kim continued his conclusions of law stating, “When a statement is deemed admissible as co-conspirator statement it is non-testimonial and does not violate a defendant’s 6th Amendment right to confrontation. Furthermore, non-testimonial co-conspirator statements are admissible, in full, and not subject to redaction regardless of whether one co-conspirator identifies another co-conspirator or may say what other co-conspirators did or thoughts were with respect to the conspiracy.”
Additional text message and social media communication between the accused were also deemed admissible.
The appeal of the order to suppress Jason’s statements for her separate trial is still in the appellate court.
Jason faces two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver, and two firearms offenses, ownership or possession prohibited fugitive.
Jason, Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres are accused of assisting Waiki while he was running from authorities after reportedly shooting and killing Kaliloa on July 17, 2018, in Mountain View. Kaliloa, a 10-year veteran of the department, died shortly after midnight the next day.
Jason, along with Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres were with Waiki when he was caught by officers July 20, 2018. 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. Waiki shot at officers, and police returned fire. Waiki died from gunshot wounds. Jason also suffered a gunshot wound and one officer was injured. Both have since recovered.
Three other defendants charged in connection with the incident, Kyle Brende, Mokihana Veincent and Taumi Carr, were severed from the case early on to be tried separately. They faced lesser charges than the other four defendants.
Two are awaiting sentencing and trial was pushed back for the third suspect.
Recently, Brende pleaded guilty to first-degree hindering prosecution and was ordered to serve an indeterminate period of five years in prison for his role in the case.
Veincent also changed her plea, pleading guilty to first-degree hindering prosecution last month. Her sentencing is scheduled for Monday.
Carr is charged with two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution and is set to stand trial Dec. 10.
Email Laura Ruminski at email@example.com.