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Retrial in attempted murder case opens

A prosecutor told jurors a 20-year-old Waikoloa man “was choking on his own blood” following what she called a “brutal and unprovoked attack” while the defense attorney described the stabbing as self-defense and said his client “should have killed” the man, a drug dealer, on April 17, 2014.

Those statements came Thursday in Hilo Circuit Court during opening arguments in the second-degree attempted murder retrial of 40-year-old Joel Hanalei White. White was found guilty on May 7, 2015, by a Kona jury of second-degree attempted murder for the stabbing of Jeremy Nicholas at Nicholas’ Waikoloa home. The jury dismissed a first-degree burglary charge against White.

Kona Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra, who has since retired, granted the retrial on May 29, 2015, after a hearing in which White’s lawyers argued the court erred in failing to instruct the jury on extreme mental or emotional disturbance — also known as EMED — as a possible factor in the stabbing, and also for not allowing the jury the possibility of considering the lesser charge of attempted manslaughter.

The retrial is being held in Hilo because the Judiciary is in the process of moving into a new Kona courthouse.

Deputy Prosecutor Annaliese Wolf said Nicholas would’ve died after his “throat was slit from ear to ear” except for his “extraordinary luck that day.” She said Nicholas managed to escape after having his throat slashed and being stabbed five times in the back, “leaving a gruesome blood trail through the house.”

Wolf told the jury of nine men and three women Nicholas ran down the street “holding his hand against his neck, blood pouring down his body,” when he encountered a young man selling solar panels door-to-door.

“That was his first piece of luck,” Wolf said, adding the salesman called 911.

She said they managed to get Nicholas to a neighbor’s house where he encountered his second piece of luck as the neighbor pressed bath towels against Nicholas’ neck “to staunch the flow of blood as they waited for medics and help to come.”

According to Wolf, the third lucky break came when he was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea, where he was treated by general surgeon Dr. Howard Wong. Wolf said Wong “will testify that he had considerable experience dealing with traumatic injury because he had trained (at) a trauma hospital in Las Vegas.”

Wolf said Nicholas will testify to being a drug dealer and told the jury police found about “a pound of cocaine and a substantial amount of cash” in the house. She also said there was a firearm in the nightstand but that it was registered to a friend of Nicholas’ and that Nicholas was unaware the gun was there.

Wolf also told jurors White was uninjured because the stabbing was unprovoked.

White’s attorney, Jacob Delaplane said that it would’ve been OK had White killed Nicholas that day “because it was self defense.”

“Now, you’ll notice that the prosecutor started the story with Mr. Nicholas running down the street with blood spurtin’ out of his neck,” Delaplane told the jury. “Somebody selling solar panels comes and help him, talks about the doctor and the 8-inch laceration and all the injuries because it’s gruesome, and it’s gross and it’s scary. And it hits that emotional trigger with you.”

Delaplane said what actually happened was that White’s girlfriend, Ahlea Giles, was at Nicholas’ house “sleepin’ off some drugs.”

“Guess where she got her drugs from — Jeremy Nicholas,” he said. “How did she know Jeremy Nicholas? That was her drug dealer.”

Delaplane said White came to Nicholas’ house to retrieve his girlfriend. He said White “didn’t show up to kill somebody.”

“He had a Leatherman tool in his pocket, which you’ll hear he carried all the time. A Leatherman tool,” Delaplane said. “… it’s a multi-tool. It’s not a killin’ machine.”

“Mr. White came looking for her, saw that she was fine, on the bed asleep …,” Delaplane said. He added that White and Nicholas then watched computer videos for about two hours. “But when Mr. White wants to leave and he tries to wake Ahlea up to leave, Jeremy Nicholas — who’s not only a drug dealer, he’s a drug user — he got a little bit crazy.

“He got a little bit crazy about the party being over. He didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t want them to leave.”

Delaplane said Nicholas then went off about journal he kept of drug transactions and connections that he believed either White or Giles had taken, that Delaplane described as “a paranoid belief.” He said White continued to try, unsuccessfully, to wake Giles up.

According to Delaplane, Nicholas then called Giles “a narc,” and White became scared.

“Mr. Nicholas gets upset and says, ‘Naw, you know what? I’m goin’ to kill you f——rs!’ … And then he lunges toward the nightstand. The very nightstand where they find the gun, where they find ammunition. Conveniently, it’s his friend’s gun, that he doesn’t know that he left it there. Yeah. It’s in his nightstand beside his bed. It’s in a drawer in the nightstand by his bed.

“But you’re supposed to believe that his friend left it there and he has no idea how it got there.”

The trial continues today in Judge Henry Nakamoto’s courtroom.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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