HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A plea deal that will allow a man who was on trial for murder to only serve time for assault is being criticized.
With his no contest plea, Jhun Ley Irorita isn’t admitting any guilt.
He was charged with second-degree murder for the November 2015 killing of Helen Prestosa.
“I felt that justice was not served in this case for Helen,” said a juror who asked not to be identified.
During the trial, the prosecutor told the jury that Irorita admitted killing Prestosa to his father, and that the defendant’s mother overheard the confession.
The public defender, however, insisted that Irorita’s father was the more likely culprit, alleging he had a workplace dispute with the victim.
Prestosa was reported missing from her Kalihi home. Her remains were found about five months later on Tantalus.
After the defendant’s father began to testify, paramedics were called to treat him before he could tell the jury about his son’s alleged confession.
The prosecutor asked for a recess of the trial, but the judge denied the request.
“At that point, I would have voted as a juror not guilty,” said the juror. “There was no motive presented.”
Under a plea deal, the charge was reduced to first-degree assault. Irorita pleaded no contest and agreed to a maximum 10-year prison term. The parole board will decide how much time he must serve.
"It was either that or the case would get dismissed and he'd get nothing, so they were just trying to salvage a case," said legal expert and defense attorney Victor Bakke.
“At least they take this guy off the street for about 8 years.”
Irorita’s public defender did not respond to HNN’s request for comment.
The prosecutor’s office issued this statement:
"Given the evidence, the developments during trial and after consultation with the victim's family, we believe the plea agreement is a reasonable resolution. As a result of the plea agreement, the defendant will be subject to deportation once he is released from prison."
Irorita is from the Philippines.
"Prosecutors' jobs are to seek justice, not to secure convictions, and that's all they did in this case was try to get a conviction and say, 'At least we got something,' and that's not right," said Bakke.
Last year, Irorita was deemed mentally unfit for trial and committed to the Hawaii State Hospital before the court later found him fit to proceed.
His sentencing is set for August.