Statements suppressed in fatal car crash case

  • Contributed photo

    Cody Safadago

LIHUE — Several motions were decided in Fifth Circuit Court on Friday in the case of a man’s alleged involvement in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of a 19-year-old Kapaa woman in April.

Arguing on behalf of her client Cody Safadago, 47, Melinda Mendes presented the court with motions to dismiss the grand jury indictment, lack of probable cause to arrest, the motion to suppress statements, motion to suppress based on the search warrants and the motion to strike extended term language.

All motions were denied, except the motion to suppress statements, because of the direction of the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said he was going to grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

The reason for the motion to suppress statements, Mendes told the court during arguments, is that after Safadago was detained, officers proceeded to ask her client questions, without Mirandizing him, including, ‘were you in that truck, was that your truck?

“That basically set in motion a down-rolling rock that got larger and larger because it set off my client making comments back about that, (like), ‘that it wasn’t his truck,’” Mendes said. “Then what you have is a police officer starting to ask him more questions about what happened without Mirandizing (and) at the hospital, the officer asking my client some questions.”

All of those questions, she argued, ended up tainting the questioning by other officers.

Officers at the scene had narrowed it down, Mendes told the court, and believed that he was the one responsible. She argued they should have acted like he was the one responsible and not played games of, “you’re the victim, let me go and try to ask questions that will incriminate you.”

“What I’m saying, as a result of the police questioning my client, these statements made to the police at the station should be suppressed as a result of that. I believe the case law actually does support the tainting of statements,” Mendes said.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sean Van Demark said when he watched the body cam videos, he didn’t see the arresting police officer give Safadago his Miranda warnings.

“How do you deal with what the Hawaii Supreme Court is saying, with the failure to give Miranda warnings and Mr. Safadago making all kinds of statements during the course of this investigation?” Valenciano said.

Citing case law, Van Demark said later questioning was constitutionally legal because there was a separation of time and different officers were present. That case law, he said, is similar to this case.

“I’m having a hard time separating what the Supreme Court is doing now in this situation. The Hawaii Supreme Court has in their recent rulings put a heavy burden on law enforcement and without the Miranda warnings,” Valenciano said.

Because of past case law, Valenciano said he was having a hard time allowing the statements.

“The reason for that is the statements from the initial seizure, at the fence, the court believes those statements are permissible, but subsequent to Mr. Safadago being detained and being brought back to the police car, all of those statements should be suppressed,” Valenciano said.

Because some of the statements may be prejudicial and the impact might outweigh the relevancy of the statement, Valenciano said the court will exclude those.

“I’m going to be suppressing the statements made by Mr. Safadago at the scene and I’m finding that the statements made at the police station, I should say, was the benefit gained or an advantage derived from the prior illegally obtained statements,” Valenciano said.

The court will have to determine what statements will be suppressed, Valenciano said.

Safadago is facing charges including negligent homicide, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving without a valid driver’s license, reckless driving, inattention to driving, resisting arrest and accident involving a death or serious injury in connection to the death of Kayla Huddy-Lemn.

The Kapaa resident was heading north on Kuhio near the Courtyards at Waipouli about 10:45 p.m. April 27 when an oncoming Nissan pickup truck crossed the center line and struck her Mazda sedan.

Police said the Nissan was stolen from a home on Makaha Road in Kapaa moments before.

Huddy-Lemn was taken to Wilcox Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

  1. Charlie Chimknee February 10, 2018 2:34 am Reply

    …would seem the Kauai Police body cams need to be upgraded to 2 way visual and audio communication capability, and in severe cases such as this a “Miranda Rights” would not be missed by a more senior and experienced officer on call “in the wings”, even from that officer’s home or other Police Car or Lihue Police Station.

    This crime has potential to escalate into a double crime…i.e., the alleged suspect walks free.

    My neighbor has at his front door this 2 ways audio visual technology…called “RING”, he said it costs about $150.00

    An inexpensive simple 2 way communication might save the tax payors some hundred(s) of thousands in prosecution and possible Public Defender costs; especially if this alleged suspect qualifies for an expensive Oahu criminal defense attorney.

    If Dick Tracy had a 2 way wrist radio…why not the KPD…? What do you think Chief…?

  2. rk669 February 10, 2018 6:52 am Reply

    Fingerprints from the steering wheel of the Stolen Truck,possibly DNA SAMPLES FROM Said Truck?

  3. ruthann jones February 10, 2018 6:07 pm Reply

    another example of ‘local’ justice?

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