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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2002

Seaman is denied bail in ship slayings

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

A federal magistrate yesterday ordered a former crew member of a Taiwan fishing vessel held without bail on charges that he fatally stabbed the ship's captain and first mate about two weeks ago in international waters southeast of Hawai'i.

Deputy federal public defender Pamela Byrne asked U.S. Magistrate Leslie Kobayashi to require that officials at the federal detention center in Honolulu allow Lei Shi, 21, to call his parents in Taiwan at least twice a month.

Shi, accused of stabbing captain Chen Chung-She and first mate Li Da Feng aboard the 195-foot vessel Full Means No. 2 on March 14, has not talked to his parents in more than a year, Byrne said.

She said she would provide Shi with a phone card purchased at his or his parents expense.

Kobayashi said she was inclined to grant the request but still wanted to talk with the detention center's staff attorney and others.

Federal officials have said that shortly before the alleged stabbings, Shi argued with the ship's top two officers and demanded that they set a return course for China. Crew members were able to regain control of their fishing vessel two days later and the U.S. Coast intercepted the ship and escorted it to Honolulu last week.

Byrne said after yesterday's court hearing that she still thinks the United States may not have jurisdiction in the case. As of yesterday, she said, neither Taiwan nor China had expressed an interest in having Shi returned to either nation to face charges.

She said she may raise the jurisdiction issue in Shi's case later after determining what he wants. Shi could face the death penalty if tried in a U.S. court on charges of committing murder on the high seas, but China and Taiwan also have capital punishment.

"I think he's in deep pilikia (trouble) wherever it is heard," Byrne said.

She said the ship's owner, FCF Fishery Co. of Taiwan, is eager to have the ship return to sea. Byrne said she hoped to interview crew members to get their accounts of what happened.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.