Judge denies Arakawa change of venue
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
Circuit Judge Karen Ahn yesterday rejected a request to move the manslaughter trial of former Honolulu police officer Clyde Arakawa to Oregon.
But Ahn indicated she might be willing to move back the trial date, now set for Sept. 17, so Arakawa's lawyer, Michael Ostendorp, has adequate time to prepare.
Ostendorp told Ahn that there were more than 3,500 references to the former officer in newspaper and TV news reports after Arakawa was involved in an Oct. 7 collision in which a 19-year-old woman was killed. Arakawa did not attend yesterday's session.
"If that's not a media circus to lynch Mr. Arakawa, then I don't know what is," Ostendorp said.
Prosecutors maintain Arakawa, 49, was drunk when his 1993 Ford Thunderbird broadsided a 2000 Honda Civic at the intersection of Pali Highway and School Street, fatally injuring Dana Ambrose.
Ostendorp claims, however, that Ambrose ran the red light and that Arakawa, off-duty at the time, did not cause the collision.
At yesterday's hearing, Ostendorp said it would be virtually impossible to find a panel of jurors in Hawai'i who haven't read or heard news accounts about his client and already formed an opinion about him.
If the trial were moved to Oregon, a jury could be picked in as little as a day compared with the estimated two to three weeks it would take to find enough jury members in Hawai'i who were not negatively influenced by the media coverage, Ostendorp said.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle urged Ahn not to grant the request for a change of venue.
The media coverage of Arakawa's situation is relatively minor when compared with the Xerox shootings, in which a disgruntled worker, Byran Uyesugi, shot seven fellow employees, or the Dana Ireland case in which a young woman was run over by a car while riding a bike on the Big Island, raped and then left to die by the side of the road, he said.
Both cases were tried in areas of the state in which they occurred, despite a huge amount of pretrial publicity, Carlisle said.
"And I don't know where he (Ostendorp) gets this Oregon stuff," Carlisle said. He said that under Hawai'i law, Arakawa's trial could be moved no farther than one of the Neighbor Islands.
In a related matter, Ahn said she may be willing to delay the start of Arakawa's trial if Ostendorp can produce letters from three expert witnesses he intends to call.
Ostendorp said the three were willing and able to be here for the trial that was scheduled to start Sept. 17, but "disassociated themselves" from the case after learning Arakawa had run out of money. Ostendorp asked Ahn to delay the start of the trial until January.
Honolulu attorney Rick Fried, who represents Ambrose's parents in a civil lawsuit against Arakawa and who was seated immediately behind Carlisle in Ahn's courtroom yesterday, objected to moving the manslaughter trial back to January.
He said that would interfere with the scheduled civil trial against Arakawa.
Ahn will consider the request to postpone the trial again on Thursday.
Reach David Waite at email@example.com or at 525-8030.