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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 20, 2006

Judge says man to face trial in hammer slaying

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer


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A Kapahulu man has been declared mentally fit to stand trial on a murder charge of repeatedly striking his wife with a hammer at their home last year.

Circuit Judge Marcia Waldorf ruled yesterday that Tan Lam, 51, also known as Danny Lam, is competent, meaning he can assist in his defense and understand the criminal proceedings.

Lam's attorney, Howard Luke, said they will rely on the insanity defense.

Waldorf's ruling paves the way for the resumption of the criminal proceedings, which were suspended pending the ruling on Lam's fitness. She scheduled the trial for the week of Sept. 18.

Lam, who remains in custody unable to post $500,000 bail, has been diagnosed as suffering from a psychotic disorder.

Psychiatrist Edward Furukawa, one of three court-appointed mental health experts, found that Lam was under a delusion that the devil was in his wife when he struck her.

Although the panel found that Lam suffered from mental problems, Furukawa was the only one to conclude that the real estate agent wasn't fit to stand trial.

Waldorf said she did not find Furukawa's testimony to be "compelling" enough to declare Lam to be incompetent.

The panel also examined Lam to determine whether he was legally insane on June 11 last year when his wife was killed. Furukawa was the only panelist to find Lam to be legally insane.

Lam is accused of striking his 41-year-old wife, Melody, while their 6-year-old son was asleep in the room.

The second-degree murder charge carries a mandatory life term with parole. If acquitted by reason of insanity and determined to be dangerous, Lam would be committed to the Hawai'i State Hospital.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.