Jury begins deliberations in brutal Kahala stabbing trial
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After closing arguments Wednesday from the prosecution and defense, the jury in the brutal Kahala Beach stabbing case began deliberations.
Erik Willis, 19, is accused of stabbing Melia Kalahiki 15 times at Kahala Beach on July 20, 2020.
He’s charged with second-degree attempted murder.
“The attack was cowardly, vicious and it was Erik Willis ... who stabbed and tried to kill Melia that day on the beach,” said Deputy Prosecutor Lawrence Sousie.
In his closing arguments, Sousie relied heavily on the victim’s testimony identifying Willis as her attacker. He also relied on surveillance camera video showing Willis several blocks from the attack.
But the prosecutor did not present any physical evidence linking Willis to the attack or as having been at the exact scene of the crime.
“There is significant circumstantial evidence that points to the defendant,” said Sousie.
Willis’ lawyer Jonathan Loo shot back: “It’s not circumstantial evidence. It’s speculation. That’s what the prosecution is asking you to do. They have huge gaps in their case.”
Loo said one witness described a suspect as being a white male in his mid-30s, weighing 200 to 220 pounds. Willis, who was 18 at the time, weighs about 160 pounds.
“Ladies and gentlemen, look at the defendant. There is no way that you would mistake Erik Willis for somebody in his mid-30s. Impossible,” he said.
“There is no way you would mistake him for someone between 200 and 220 lbs.”
Loo also pointed to Kalahiki’s testimony on Tuesday, where she said she was unable to identify Willis or anybody else as her attacker during three separate lineups provided by police days after the attack.
And then there’s the drug tests given to Kalahiki when she was admitted to the hospital, showing she had meth and Valium in her blood. Kalahiki denied using those drugs. “Do you think those drugs had an effect on Melia Kalahiki’s ability to perceive and remember?” Loo asked the jury.
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