Murder suspect wants to represent himself

LIHUE — A man accused of killing a Lawai resident last year with his car wants to represent himself.

Evan Craft, 34, told Judge Kathleen Watanabe Tuesday he wanted to change his court-appointed attorney, Emmanuel Guerrero.

He said he had a disagreement with his attorney and he believed he needed a new one.

“I would like my first attorney, Scott Kessinger, or if that’s not appropriate, I’d be willing to represent myself.”

Craft, who appeared before Watanabe on second-degree murder and DUI charges, was scheduled for a hearing to review medical reports and to discuss a motion to change his counsel.

He was arrested on June 4, 2015 in connection to the death of Michael Helppie. In the early morning hours of June 1, police believe the two men got into a confrontation at a bar.

The incident escalated when Craft’s SUV struck Helppie near the Kalapaki seawall along Nawiliwili Park, then ran over a concrete piling, according to reports.

Helppie, 37, died at the scene.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Watanabe told Craft he does not have the right to pick and choose the court-appointed attorney.

“This court is well aware of the very serious charges you’re facing, and this court is making a very conscious decision as to selecting an attorney who is experienced and well-versed in criminal law, in respect to high-level felonies,” she said. “That is the court’s intent in selecting Mr. Guerrero.”

She also warned Craft of the potential implications he will face if he chooses to represent himself.

“You will be up against an experienced deputy prosecuting attorney. You are facing a very, very serious charge, a class A felony,” he said.

Second-degree murder is punishable by life in prison. Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar is the lead attorney in the case.

But Craft said he is ready to continue without counsel.

“I’m prepared to represent myself, if need be,” he said.

Guerrero said he will leave it up to Watanabe to decide if he should be discharged from the case.

“I will represent him in the fullest extent of the law and procedures, but he feels that he is being misrepresented, that’s what he’s saying,” he said.

Craft will be in court again on Nov. 15 to decide who will represent him in court proceedings.

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