Jury gives man benefit of doubt

The week-long trial of Kekoa Krueger last week cast a shadow on other proceedings, but there was a much shorter trial that deserves some attention.

Bryce Hokulani Akuna, 28, of Hanapepe was arrested on Jan. 9 for allegedly striking his spouse. He was arraigned in June and decided to refuse the plea offer in November.

The trial started May 14 with Chief Judge Randal Valenciano of the 5th Circuit presiding.

 After a day of jury selection and another day of testimony it took the jury just 20 minutes to find Akuna not guilty of third-degree assault.

Private attorney Shauna Lee Cahill represented Akuna. She questioned witnesses, including a neighbor who watched Akuna driving back and forth in front of his spouse.

The witnesses and police treated the incident as a domestic assault. It appeared he had beaten her until Cahill’s questions about methamphetamine addiction slowly changed the scenario.

Cahill explained her client’s story. His wife had slept in the vehicle at their Hanapepe address, and wanted a ride the next morning to a friend’s home in Lihu‘e. She had told police that he struck her in Hanapepe, in the car and outside the friend’s home.

The woman admitted to being a methamphetamine addict on the stand, and Cahill demonstrated that her injuries were not as severe as she reported to police. She did have an arm bruise and a bump on her head which led to Akuna’s arrest.

Kaua‘i Police officers testified that Akuna was arrested after a 15-minute investigation and that the bump on the head was enough for probable cause.

The jury ended up not believing the wife’s story after she told officers that the bruise was from another incident.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys Lisa Arin and Gary Nelson represented the state. They presented a neighbor witness who said she never saw her being struck but that their was a loud argument and Akuna was driving back and forth in the driveway near his spouse.

Akuna has other matters pending in court. His spouse is currently in custody at Kaua‘i Community Correctional Center awaiting sentencing for a credit card theft charge in June.

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