The Hawaii judge who closed the courtroom multiple times during the last day of a high-profile murder trial has unsealed the transcripts from that proceeding in response to a motion by The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.
The transcript reveals discussions that Judge Karen Ahn of the first circuit in Hawaii had with the attorneys, the jury foreman and a juror after that juror was seen shaking hands with a friend of the victim’s family, the Honolulu Civil Beat reported. Ahn rejected defense attempts to replace that juror.
The trial was for Christopher Deedy, a special agent with the U.S. State Department, who was charged with shooting and killing a man in a Waikiki McDonalds in 2011. It ended in a mistrial in August 2013 after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Deedy will be retried this summer.
Ahn explained in her order last week that conferences between the judge, attorneys and jurors have traditionally been closed to the public to help preserve jurors’ privacy and to ensure the “integrity of a fair and impartial jury.” But, since the initial trial has ended, “a substantial part of the Court’s and counsel’s concerns no longer apply,” Ahn reasoned.
The news outlets, represented by Jeff Portnoy, had filed their request to open the transcripts with the Hawaii Supreme Court in September. That court asked Ahn in January to revisit her sealing order.
Portnoy told Hawaii News Now that Ahn should have released the transcripts immediately after she discharged the jury because the secret conversations were about a tangential issue that could not have prejudiced future jurors.
“People did not have to wait six months to speculate on why the judge had three closed hearings the last day of that trial, particularly in a trial of this magnitude,” Portnoy said.
The judge redacted the names of the juror and the man whose hand he shook.