Judge: Man accused of murder must keep lawyer

LIHUE — A Kauai judge ruled Tuesday that a man accused of second-degree murder cannot withdraw his counsel.

While Evan Craft told Judge Kathleen Watanabe he was prepared to represent himself at trial, she ruled that there is no basis for Emmanuel Guerrero to be dismissed.

“You will continue to be his attorney,” Watanabe said.

Craft, who appeared before Watanabe on second-degree murder and DUI charges, 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.

Craft, 34, appeared via telephonic conference from the Hawaii State Hospital on a hearing to discuss the status of counsel and medical examinations. The hearing was also set to discuss a motion filed by Guerrero to determine if he should withdraw his services. Craft said he no longer wanted Guerrero to represent him.

“He indicated he wanted to either represent himself, hire another attorney and that I ask the court that I be discharged,” Guerrero said. “I told him I didn’t see any basis for me to withdraw as counsel, so I filed a motion asking the court to make the determination I remove my services.” During the proceedings, Watanabe ordered a three-panel medical examination be completed, which would determine his fitness to proceed with trial. She also reminded Craft of the serious charges he is facing. Second-degree murder is punishable by life in prison. “You are facing a Class-A felony,” she said. “You are at the state hospital and there is a pending issue whether you are fit to proceed. Under those circumstances, representing yourself is frankly not an option at this point.”

But Craft said he does not want to move forward with Guerrero as his lawyer.

“I’m not interested in being represented by a dishonest man,” he said. “And if I have to remain unfit (for trial) until the day this man retires, he will not be my attorney.”

Craft will be in court again Dec. 13.


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