LIHU‘E — At the Fifth Circuit Court in Lihu‘e on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, Vicente Hilario was convicted of the same five charges he was convicted of in a 2013 trial — murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, retaliating against a witness, intimidating a witness and bribery of a witness — for which he could face a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Hilario, 36, was tried for the broad-daylight, execution-style killing of Aureo Moore at Anahola Beach Park on the morning of Dec. 17, 2010. Moore had named Hilario and his friend, Kyle Akau, as accomplices in a drug robbery that occurred earlier that year, and was set to testify against Akau.
After Hilario’s 2013 trial resulted in a conviction and sentence of life in prison, the case was remanded for a new trial on appeal in 2017 due to procedural issues.
The verdict on Tuesday ended a long second trial which, including jury selection, lasted more than 10 weeks.
Prosecutors said Hilario bribed a woman with pills to arrange a
meeting with Moore on Dec. 17, 2010, where he shot Moore six times before fleeing with two of his friends. Deputy County Prosecutor Matthew Arakawa compared Hilario’s actions to “a spider” trapping prey in a web, in his closing arguments on Friday, April 14, 2023.
Kaua‘i Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Like expressed gratitude for Kaua‘i Police Department investigators and her team at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, for their work on the case.
“We are happy that justice was served today for Mr. Moore and his surviving family,” she said in a statement.
Key to the case was Hilario’s childhood friend David Manaku, who testified he witnessed Hilario shoot Moore before fleeing the scene with him. Manaku also testified he and Hilario had used a handgun for target practice days before the shooting.
Hilario accused Manaku of being the shooter, claiming he encountered Manaku shortly after the killing, who informed him that he had “aced” Moore.
Hilario’s defense, which he led as a pro se litigant, which means he represented himself in court, was largely focused on attacking both Manaku and the credibility of investigators. He pointed to Manaku’s changing statements over the course of the investigation, and highlighted moments when investigators provided information about other witness statements to Manaku, who later changed his story to match the prosecution’s version of events.
But the case against him was backed up by physical evidence (gunshot residue was discovered on Hilario’s hands, but not Manaku’s), and testimony from unaffiliated witnesses. Though nobody other than Manaku identified Hilario as the shooter, one witness identified the shooter as somebody matching Hilario’s characteristics and clothing more closely than Manaku.
Hilario, who has represented himself since late last year, struggled to navigate the legal system from a jail cell at Kaua‘i Community Correctional Center in Wailua. While a court-appointed, stand-by counsel assisted him with legal matters early in the process, Hilario moved to discharge the lawyer midway through the trial.
On the final day of his defense last week, Hilario referred to the process as “fundamentally unfair.” He is set to be sentenced on May 4.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island
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