The Hawaii Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on whether Christopher Deedy should be tried again, this time for manslaughter, in the shooting death of Kollin Elderts in 2011.
The proposed trial would be the third time prosecutors would try to secure a conviction against Deedy, a former employee of the U.S. State Department.
"This is someone who was supposed to be an individual that protects people with his weapon, not shoots them dead at a McDonald's in the early morning," deputy prosecutor Donn Fudo argued.
In 2011, Deedy was in Hawaii as a State Department agent for the APEC summit. He maintains that he shot the 23-year-old Elderts in self-defense. Prosecutors said he was drunk and instigated the confrontation.
Deedy's first trial ended in a mistrial. He was acquitted of murder in a second trial, but the jury deadlocked on a manslaughter charge.
"And that's exactly what double jeopardy is supposed to prevent against," defense attorney Thomas Otake told the Justices in court Thursday. "You get one try and when you fail, as a prosecutor, you don't get to come back and say, 'Okay, wait! That didn't work, now we're going to try this.' It shows the lengths they will go to to get a conviction." .
"An injustice was done in our community, and they're seeking to have that injustice validated through our courts," Fudo countered.
The Elderts family wasn't in court, instead issuing a written statement. "Nothing will ever bring Kollin back to us. The only thing that keeps us going is the belief that one day we will see justice done."
"Their life has already been destroyed. They've been financially devastated, spiritually and emotionally devastated. In order for them to make it through the next day, they can't be here for every single step," said Kalama Niheu of the group Justice for Kollin Elderts Coalition.
"I can see where the victim's family wants justice, but I think the murder being acquitted 12-0, I was surprised with that," said attorney Paul Cunney. "I think it would be a hung jury if they went with reckless manslaughter.
Deedy, 32, is still working for the State Department. He remains free on bail.
Legal experts believe it could take up to six months for the Justices to render their ruling.