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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 15, 2010

Lawyer asks judge in Cyrus Belt murder trial to step down

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

The defense lawyer for accused child killer Matthew Higa has asked the presiding judge to disqualify himself from the case.

If that motion fails and the murder trial begins as scheduled in 10 days, defense lawyer Randall Oyama will argue that toddler Cyrus Belt was already dead when Higa dropped him from a freeway overpass two years ago, Oyama said this morning.
Oyama said he is asking Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario to step down from hearing the jury-waived trial.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve had several hearings before him,” Oyama said.
“I don’t think my client can be fairly treated actually at this time based on what’s transpired in the past with this case and another case that I’m handling before Judge Del Rosario,” he said.
He declined to be more specific, saying details would be included in a written disqualification motion.
Del Rosario scheduled a hearing on the matter for next week.
Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle declined to comment on the details of Oyama's motion but said he is ready to go to trial.
A disqualification “would delay the trial significantly,” Carlisle said.
“I think that this judge has been handling it from start to finish and absent some extraordinary circumstance, it’s appropriate for him to see it to the conclusion,” Carlisle said.
Oyama repeated earlier statements that he will not mount an insanity defense for Higa.
“I don’t think really he was insane at the time, legally,” Oyama said.
“I think he did not cause death,” he continued.
“We have evidence to show there’s no movement of the child as it fell. A child that was living would have exhibited some sort of movements, reflex actions or things of that nature,” Oyama said.
“We’re suggesting that there was an injury before, that he was unconscious or dead before. We have a doctor, a pathologist, who’s going to testify to that.”
The child's mother, Nancy Chanco, said shortly after the crime that police told her H-1 Freeway cameras showed that her 23-month-old baby was not moving when he wes thrown from the overpass.
That led her to believe the boy might have been dead or unconscious before he was thrown, Chanco said lin 2008.
But the Medical Examiner's Office then released a statement that said an autopsy performed on Cyrus did "not show objective evidence to indicate that he was dead prior to being thrown off the pedestrian overpass."
Oyama said today the Medical Examiner’s opinion was given “at a time when she really didn’t have all the information.”