Judge denies motion to dismiss murder charges against 3 Honolulu police officers

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Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:46 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 4:43 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A judge denied a motion Tuesday afternoon to throw out a case against three Honolulu police officers charged with murder in a teen’s fatal shooting.

The ruling allowed the preliminary hearing in the case to move forward.

Among the first witnesses called in the hearing was Honolulu’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Masahiko Kobayashi, who conducted the autopsy of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.

Kobayashi said Sykap sustained eight gunshot wounds in the April 5 shooting, including to his head, neck and heart.

A Queen’s Medical Center trauma surgeon and an officer also testified Tuesday.

A preliminary hearing is something like a mini-trial. The judge will hear evidence from witnesses and determine if there is probable cause to continue the case.

He hasn’t done that yet. The officers will be back in court on July 27, when the hearing will continue.

Meanwhile, outside of the courthouse Tuesday, dozens gathered to show their support for the officers. As they walked out of District Court, supporters chanted “Free Da 3!” Demonstrators say the officers were justified when they opened fire on Sykap, who was a suspect in a robbery.

But a separate group also held signs outside the courthouse, calling for more police accountability.

A group of supporters for three officers charged in a teen's killing gathered outside the...
A group of supporters for three officers charged in a teen's killing gathered outside the District courthouse on Tuesday.(Hawaii News Now)

In the case, Officer Geoffrey Thom is charged with second-degree murder, while officers Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces face second-degree attempted murder charges. A grand jury declined to indict the officers, but the city Prosecutor’s Office moved forward with charges against the three.

[Read More: 3 HPD officers charged in teen’s fatal shooting make first appearance in court]

In the motion to dismiss the case, defense attorneys for the officers claimed the way that the city Prosecutor’s Office charged the three violates state law.

In heated arguments to the court, the attorneys tried to make the case that state law prevents Class A felonies from being charged without a grand jury indictment.

“We’re not delusional and this is a valid argument,” said attorney Tommy Otake, responding to the deputy city prosecutor’s characterization that the motion was off base.

“Just because it’s been done this way for a long time doesn’t mean it’s OK.”

Deputy city Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter, however, said it’s not uncommon for people to be charged after a grand jury declines to indict.

“The defense ... they think it’s fundamentally unfair that a person can be charged with a crime after the grand jury has been returned a new bill,” he said.

“That’s fine for them to have that view but that’s not the law.”

[Related Coverage: Attorney for Honolulu police officer acquitted in 1980s says prosecutors in Sykap case face ‘high bar’]

In a second motion, defense attorneys sought to disqualify Van Marter, arguing that because he signed the criminal complaint he made himself a potential witness.

The judge, however, said that Van Marter has no personal knowledge in the case.

This story will be updated.

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