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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, September 20, 2001

Supreme Court won't allow murder retrial

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Supreme Court yesterday ruled that a Big Island man cannot face retrial on a 1997 murder charge, citing the double-jeopardy rule.

Christopher Wilmer Jr. was charged with the May 1997 stabbing death of Gordon Granger, 73. Granger was a retired businessman and community leader who served as Wilmer's supervised release sponsor in an unrelated criminal matter.

Prosecutors said Wilmer killed Granger after Granger said he would no longer employ him. Wilmer feared that his release would be revoked and he would be returned to jail, prosecutors said.

Wilmer went on trial in November 1998, but Circuit Judge Riki May Amano declared a mistrial because of prosecutorial misconduct. Amano said Deputy Prosecutor Kay Iopa lied to the court and to others involved in the case.

In dismissing the charge against Wilmer, Amano ruled that he could be tried again. That ruling was appealed to the state high court by Brian De Lima, Wilmer's attorney.

The court ruled that the mistrial was the result of "egregious" prosecutorial misconduct that "clearly denied a defendant his or her right to a fair trial." Wilmer, the court ruled, should have been allowed to choose between continuing the trial or consenting to a mistrial.

Because the defendant did not consent to a mistrial, the court barred a retrial because of Wilmer's constitutional double-jeopardy rights.

Although the court threw out the murder charge, Wilmer remains behind bars on unrelated offenses. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a 1997 robbery as well as for three offenses that occurred at the Hilo jail in 1999.

Wilmer also is serving a concurrent eight-year term for a 1995 robbery of a Hilo Pizza Hut restaurant.