High court reverses manslaughter conviction in death of homeless woman

Updated: Dec. 21, 2019 at 8:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Supreme Court has reversed the manslaughter conviction of a Chinatown woman accused of beating a homeless woman to death in 2014.

The high court last week overturned Kimberly Udo’s conviction due to prosecutorial misconduct and ordered a new trial.

“The prosecutorial misconduct in this case was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and affected Udo’s right to a fair trial,” Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna wrote.

For the past three years, Udo was being held at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua as part of a 20-year sentence for the beating death of Sandra Wollaston.

Prior to her conviction, Udo’s bail has been set at $500,000, which Udo could not afford. But her former attorney Myles Breiner said the bail amount will likely be lowered, paving the way for her release.

“She’s very excited about the decision. She’s looking forward to getting acquitted," said Breiner.

Prosecutors had alleged the Wollaston died after Udo kicked her several times during an early morning scuffle on Bishop Street.

But a defense expert, pathologist James Navin, argued that Wollaston was drunk at the time and may have suffered a heart attack.

In their ruling, the Supreme Court said that prosecutors in their closing arguments improperly discredited Navin’s testimony by citing his role in some of Hawaii’s most notorious murder trials — including the Baby Cyrus case.

Back in 2008, 23-month-old Cyrus Belt was thrown onto the H-1 from a pedestrian bridge by a drugged out neighbor Matthew Higa.

The high court said linking Navin’s role as Higa’s medical expert case violated Udo’s right to a fair trial.

“Fortunately, the Supreme Court decided that ... the closing arguments of the Deputy Prosecutor rose to a level of being so egregious to warrant a new trial," Breiner said.

Udo’s new trial will likely be held next year.

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