Second attempt to consolidate cases for brothers accused of murder denied
JUDGE ALSO CONTINUES TRIAL FOR MARLON MIRANDA- GARCIA TO 2018
KEALAKEKUA — A Kona Circuit Court judge on Tuesday denied a prosecuting attorney’s second attempt at consolidating trials of two brothers facing murder and conspiracy charges.
Marlon Miranda-Garcia and his brother, Eber Miranda-Garcia appeared before Judge Melvin Fujino, who denied the request during a lengthy hearing that also included the consideration of a number of other motions, including determining voluntariness of Marlon Miranda- Garcia’s statements; suppressing Marlon Miranda- Garcia’s statements; and continuing trial and pretrial deadlines.
The motions were similar to those presented during a hearing for Eber Miranda- Garcia, who appeared before Judge Harry P. Freitas last week.
The men are charged in the murder of Dolores Borja-Valle, also known as Lolo, who was found dead in a Captain Cook coffee
field on Aug. 9, 2015.
After Fujino denied a request by the defense attorneys to have the brothers unshackled during the hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson called various police officers to the stand, including Walter Ah Mow, a former detective for Hawaii Police Department, who was lead investigator on Lolo’s case; Officer Tyler Jelsma, who was assigned to scene security at Lolo’s home on Aug. 10; Detective Carrie Akina, who interviewed Marlon Miranda- Garcia in August 2015 at the Kealakehe police station; and Community Policing Officer Reuben Pukahi, who assisted in the translation during Akina’s interview with Marlon Miranda-Garcia.
Ah Mow, who testified during Eber MirandaGarcia’s case last week, again went over the details of the crime — how Lolo was found, when police came into contact with the Miranda-Garcias and how the brothers eventually were arrested and charged.
Ah Mow testified Tuesday that Eber
Miranda- Garcia’s DNA was found in Lolo’s truck and on the butt of Lolo’s rifle, which was found near Lolo’s body. He also said that when he questioned Eber Miranda- Garcia about Lolo in June, the 27-year-old said he knew nothing about Lolo’s death. However, when the detective presented evidence to him, Eber Miranda-Garcia wished to speak to his wife, Hoohuli, who was initially taken into custody and released pending investigation.
After that conversation, Ah Mow said, Eber Miranda-Garcia confessed to killing Lolo because he threatened to take his family away from him.
“He never implicated Marlon,” Ah Mow said. “He said he acted alone.”
Marlon Miranda-Garcia’s attorney Wendy DeWeese questioned Ah Mow about her client’s involvement in the case.
“So the only thing that connects Marlon to this case is cellphone evidence?” DeWeese questioned. Ah Mow answered that was correct.
“The common evidence was cellphone records at the body dump site and truck recovery site,” Ah Mow said.
She also clarified with Ah Mow that it was only after they received a confession from Eber Miranda-Garcia that they believed another person was involved. Ah Mow answered yes.
After Ah Mow stepped down, Lawson again made her case for consolidating the trials saying they are based on extremely similar evidence.
“The issue is prejudice,” Lawson said. “No one is pointing the finger at each other, so where’s the prejudice?”
DeWeese disagreed. She listed a number of ways how there is prejudice in the case and how there is evidence that could clearly be used against Marlon Miranda-Garcia.
“We believe we have shown prejudice and it would be an unfair trial,” DeWeese said.
After hearing arguments, Fujino denied Lawson’s second request to consolidate the cases. At that point, Eber Miranda-Garcia was dismissed from the courtroom.
Jelsma and Akina then took the stand relative to motions to determine voluntariness of statements and to suppress statements made by Marlon Miranda-Garcia.
Jelsma testified about his interaction with Marlon Miranda- Garcia when the investigation began in August 2015. He told the court he asked the 24-yearold his name and what he was doing at the property. He recalled a language barrier. At the time, Jelsma said, he had no reason to believe Marlon Miranda-Garcia was involved in Lolo’s death.
Akina told the court about her interview with Marlon Miranda- Garcia, whom she said came voluntarily to the Kealakehe police station. In her report, Akina noted, he seemed nervous.
DeWeese asked Akina if she questioned other people and where she did those interviews. Akina said all of the other interviews were conducted in the field.
Lawson clarified with Akina that Marlon Miranda-Garcia was not a suspect at that time.
The last person to take the stand was Pukahi, who assisted with translation during Akina’s interview with Marlon Miranda-Garcia. Upon questioning by DeWeese, Pukahi confirmed he had trouble translating the consent to search form to Marlon Miranda-Garcia and that he had trouble communicating with the man during the interview.
“You didn’t literally interpret what the detective said and you didn’t literally interpret what Marlon said?” DeWeese asked. Pukahi said yes.
Fujino will render a decision on the motions of voluntariness of statements and suppression of statements by Nov. 30.
Also Tuesday, DeWeese also requested a continuance of the Dec. 19 trial, which was granted and continued to April 17. Last week, trial for Eber Miranda-Garcia was continued to May 8.
Marlon Miranda-Garcia is led out of the courtroom on Tuesday.