HPD officers’ defense team wants to disqualify deputy city prosecutor in murder case

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Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 5:51 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 5:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The defense team for three Honolulu police officers charged in a teen’s fatal shooting is trying a new legal tactic.

In a motion filed Friday, the lawyer for HPD Officer Geoffrey Thom asked the court to disqualify deputy city Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter from the case.

The motion cites the criminal complaint that Van Marter filled out and city Prosecutor Steve Alm signed. Legal experts say that usually those complaints are filled out by a detective or investigator, who often is called to the witness stand to testify.

Christopher Van Marter
Christopher Van Marter(None)

“It is very strange,” said former deputy prosecutor turned defense attorney Megan Kau.

Kau doesn’t think the motion alone would prompt Van Marter’s removal, but she said it is an interesting point.

Victor Bakke, another former deputy prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, agreed.

“If an actual witness were to testify and to testify to something different than what the prosecutor put in his declaration then there’s a potential that they could say ... we want to call the trial prosecutor as a witness,” he said.

The filing follows another motion by the officers’ defense team to have the case dismissed altogether.

Thom is charged with second-degree murder in the April 5 shooting of robbery suspect 16-year old Iremamber Sykap.

Officers Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces are both charged with attempted murder.

The motion to disqualify Van Marter will be heard on July 20.

That same day, the court will also hear a motion asking the case to be thrown out altogether. The defense team said the prosecutors improperly charged the officers after a grand jury declined to indict.

The city Prosecutor’s Office countered that argument, saying the criminal complaint combined with the upcoming probable cause hearing is appropriate.

“It’s rare that we get this much traction as defense attorneys right out of the gate,” said Bakke, of the rapid fire motions so early on in the case.

Kau said she doesn’t expect the defense team to quietly allow the case to keep moving through.

“Basically the defense counsels are saying we’re here to fight, we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that you, government, follow the rules,” she said.

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