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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 19, 2010

Appeals court says Maui man not entitled to new trial


By AUDREY McAVOY
Associated Press

A Maui man serving at least 40 years in prison for a 1995 murder is not entitled to a new trial, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a decision by U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra of Honolulu and upheld a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.
The case involves the stabbing death of Vilmar Cabaccang, 23, of Kihei, who was stabbed multiple times with a double-bladed knife after he chased a man who broke into his car.
Taryn Christian was identified as a suspect based on a police tip. He was convicted in 1997 of second-degree murder and attempted third-degree theft.
Ezra ruled in 2008 that Christian didnít get a fair trial because he wasnít allowed to call three witnesses who claim a different man confessed to the murder.
But the appeals court said Christianís rights werenít violated because the excluded testimony was contradicted by other evidence in the case, including two witnesses who identified Christian as the culprit in a police photo lineup.
The judges also noted the two people whose testimony was excluded had been convicted of crimes, and one had acknowledged routinely using drugs, raising questions about the reliability of their statements.
The poor quality of the excluded evidence didnít rise to the standards set by another case in which the Supreme Court found a defendant didnít receive a fair trial due to omitted evidence, the judges said.
The appeals court found the Hawaii Supreme Court correctly distinguished between the two cases and found Christianís rights hadnít been violated when his trial excluded statements about another man allegedly acknowledging the crime.
ďThere were fewer alleged confessions, the confessions were made to less reputable individuals, and the confessions were contradicted, rather than supported, by the other evidence in the case,Ē the judges said in a decision written by Judge Robert R. Breezer. ďThe Hawaii courtís decision to exclude materially less reliable evidence did not amount to an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.Ē