LIHU‘E — The process began for choosing 12 jurors in the second murder trial of Vicente Hilario at Fifth Circuit Court in Lihu‘e on Monday.
A panel of more than 60 prospective jurors appeared before Chief Judge Randal Valenciano, where he explained they could be in for a lengthy commitment.
“This could be an extended trial,” said Valenciano. “When I read you the indictment you might understand why.”
Hilario faces a range of charges, including murder in the first degree for the 2010 killing of Aureo Moore, a witness set to testify against Hilario in a stick-up drug robbery case.
He was convicted in 2013 of murder in the first degree, retaliating against a witness, intimidating a witness and bribery of a witness, for which he was later sentenced to life in prison.
But the case was appealed due to the handling of the previous jury selection process.
The state Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that Hilario’s right to meaningfully participate in his defense was impeded because he was not allowed to approach the bench during jury selection, and remanded the case for a new trial.
On Monday, Hilario was allowed to approach the bench to speak with potential jurors.
Prospective jurors with prior knowledge of the case were called to the bench, where they were questioned by Hilario, Valenciano and Prosecutor Matthew Arakawa. While they spoke, a loud static was played from speakers in the ceiling to drown them out so the rest of the courtroom couldn’t hear details.
One by one, prospective jurors were eliminated from consideration due to prior knowledge, scheduling issues, child care concerns and business obligations.
The process moved slowly, and midway through the day, Valenciano announced that jurors would probably have to return Tuesday. This is the first of three panels of prospective jurors who will appear before the court, in a selection
process that will take weeks.
Hilario has been acting as his own attorney since late last year, when his attorney dropped the case due to a “breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.” He began representing himself to avoid delays in finding a new attorney in his push for a speedy trial.
Jury selection was set to begin Jan. 9, but was delayed when Hilario made a late motion to dismiss the case.
Once the jury is chosen, the trial will convene on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Valenciano said he expected the trial to last about a month, and was hopeful it would end by April. Jury selection for Hilario’s 2013 case took about a month, and the trial itself took another month.
In the 2013 trial, prosecutors alleged that Hilario bribed a woman with pills to arrange a meeting with Moore at Anahola Beach Park in 2010, where he shot the victim six times. Hilario has maintained his innocence, claiming that a friend killed Moore without telling him in advance. Moore was set to testify against Hilario and another man in a drug robbery that took place in the Waipouli Safeway supermarket parking lot earlier in 2010.
The next jury panel will convene at the courthouse on Feb. 6.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island
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