Judge to decide if toddler was dead or alive before... - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Judge to decide if toddler was dead or alive before three-story fall

Peter Carlisle Peter Carlisle
Randy Oyama Randy Oyama
Matthew Higa Matthew Higa

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Was 23-month-old Cyrus Belt dead or alive when he was thrown off a freeway overpass two years ago? That's what an Oahu judge has to decide in the Matthew Higa murder trial.

Attorneys delivered their closing arguments Thursday afternoon.

Higa waived his right to a jury trial. Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario is expected to announce his verdict in one week.

Prosecutors painted the defendant as a crystal methamphetamine addict, who showed his indifference to 23-month-old Cyrus Belt's life when he hurled the boy off a pedestrian walkway and onto the H-1 Freeway, where a delivery truck ran over him.

Witnesses testified that the falling child looked like a lifeless doll. Prosecutors told the judge that's because what they saw was inconceivable, and they were in shock and denial.

"Dr. Gayle Suzuki concluded there is no evidence Cyrus Belt was dead when thrown," Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor, said. "She ruled out smothering, suffocation, strangulation, beating of the child."

But the defense argued the toddler was already dead at the hands of someone else, and that medical evidence supports that.

"Dr. Navin said that there would be movement," Randy Oyama, defense attorney, said. "If the child was conscious, there would be movement. There are reflexes in the body that would automatically cause movement in the body to re-gain balance."

"A lot of points that were made, medically, are hard to dispute," Oyama said after the hearing. "So I think what we said was very valid about the child being dead or unconscious as he fell from the bridge."

During the trial, the toddler's mother testified that she wasn't with her child that day because she was out smoking crystal meth and losing money at an illegal gambling parlor.

"Obviously this case has a lot to do with our problems with crystal methamphetamine in our community. It hasn't gone away. It's still here," Carlisle said after the hearing. "So what would I describe as the impact that this should have? Reminding everybody of just how God-awful crystal methamphetamine is."

Because the victim was under the age of eight, it's an enhanced murder charge. If Higa is convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly