Defendant Testifies to Hearing Murder - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Defendant Testifies to Hearing Murder

Donny Hiramoto testifies in his defense on Wednesday. Donny Hiramoto testifies in his defense on Wednesday.
Surveillance video taken of Hiramoto at the apartment complex where the murder took place. Surveillance video taken of Hiramoto at the apartment complex where the murder took place.
Makiki apartment complex where Robert Lee was shot to death. Makiki apartment complex where Robert Lee was shot to death.

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A man who was caught on surveillance tape at a murder scene says he didn't do it.

Donny Hiramoto is accused of killing an elderly bookie over a gambling debt. KHNL News 8's Minna Sugimoto was in the courtroom, as Hiramoto took the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday.

An admitted gambler, accused in the execution-style slaying of his bookie, is soft-spoken on the witness stand.

"Did you shoot Robert Lee?" Jeffrey Hawk, defense attorney, asked.

"No, I did not," Donny Hiramoto, defendant, replied.

71-year-old Robert Lee was shot in the head, after he got out of his truck at his apartment building in December 2004.

Surveillance cameras captured the defendant at the scene, moments before the murder. But he says he wasn't the one who pulled the trigger.

"He had, it looked like a gun," Hiramoto testified. "So when I saw the gun, I ducked behind the car. And I just, I was kind of contemplating on what to do. And that's when I heard him. He asked, 'Where's Donny?' A few seconds later, I heard a pop."

He says he borrowed $8,000 from Lee to clear a credit-card debt, but had already paid back $1,500. He says he was waiting for Lee that night, so he could make another payment.

"He was a relatively nice guy," Hiramoto said.

"Would he, you know, send out thugs to collect money?" Hawk asked.

"No, nothing like that," the defendant replied.

Under cross examination, prosecutors asked Hiramoto if he knew he knew he would be caught by the surveillance cameras, why didn't he tell homicide investigators this story when they questioned him. He says he feared for his safety, and the safety of his family.

"See if the camera shows somebody else because I saw somebody else but I'm afraid to get involved. Did you say anything like that?" Darrell Wong, deputy prosecutor, asked.

"Nothing like that," Hiramoto responded.

Hiramoto is charged with murder and firearms offenses. Attorneys are scheduled to deliver their closing arguments Thursday.

Minna Sugimoto

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