So yesterday, Honolulu Judge Karen Anh finally gave in and released 64 pages of previously sealed transcripts of a closed hearing during the 2013 trial of Christopher Deedy, the federal agent accused of murdering Oahu resident Kollin Elderts at a Waikiki McDonald’s (the trial ended in a hung jury). This particular hearing, in August 2013, had been closed to the media, but a large coalition of Hawaii newspapers and organizations–including MauiTime–objected and demanded to see the court transcripts of what happened.
There have been a bunch of stories about the release of the transcripts, but Honolulu Civil Beat has one of the best, which you can read here (it also includes a posting of the transcripts themselves).
Put very simply, the secret hearing that Ahn initially refused to disclose to the media was, in fact, a very Hawaii story: the trial’s juror foreman saw another juror chat up a guy in the hallway one day during a break in the trial, and then later the foreman saw that same guy hanging out with Elderts’ family. On the last day of the trial, Ahn called the attorneys in and they questioned the two jurors. Understandably, the prosecutor thought the matter trivial while the defense team smelled blood. Ahn eventually brought in the second juror, asked him if he could be fair, and then closed the hearing when she was apparently satisfied that he could be fair.
So yeah, it’s a bit of a Al Capone’s Vaults kind of thing, with all us reporters cast in the role of Geraldo Rivera, but at the same time, the release of the transcripts shows that Hawaii’s disparate news organizations can and will come together to keep as much of our legal system open and accountable as possible, and that’s a great thing.
Photo of Geraldo Rivera: Wikimedia Commons