Judge recuses himself from trial

LIHUE — A 5th Circuit Court judge recused himself Thursday from a murder and firearms case.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano granted a defense motion to recuse his court from the state’s case against Giovanni Lictawa Corpuz, 41, who is charged with the second-degree murder of an Omao man.

Valenciano said that a possible witness in the case was a former client of his private practice over a decade ago. Whether the witness was material to the case or not is not yet known, he said, but the court was obligated to disclose the possible conflict.

County First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Takata read from the Hawaii Revised Code of Judicial Conduct regarding the criteria for recusal in the interest of maintaining fairness and impartiality. He deferred to the court for a decision without objecting or agreeing with the motion.

Valenciano took a brief recess to confer by phone with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. He returned and granted the motion after saying the CJC recommended the recusal.

Valenciano sent the case to Judge Kathleen Watanabe. He said that if her court has a conflict then it could be addressed at the trial setting hearing on Feb. 24.

The court granted the defense’s motion to continue the trial date from Feb. 23. Zenger was appointed to the case in December after court appointed attorney Michael Soong withdraw after learning he knew family of the victim.

Corpuz was assisted by court interpreter Felipa-Felina Garduque. His first language is the Ilocano dialect of the Philippines.

Corpuz is accused of shooting and killing 88-year-old Amby Cruz of Omao in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2014. He was arrested in Taiwan, while en route to the Philippines on Jan. 10, 2014.

He is also charged with carrying or using a firearm in the commission of a separate felony. If convicted, the state is seeking a life sentence for inflicting death or serious injury on a person ages 60 or older.

Corpuz continues to be held without bail at Kauai Community Correctional Center.

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