New attorney appointed for murder suspect

LIHUE — A new attorney has been appointed to represent a Kauai man charged with murder.

Evan Craft appeared before Judge Kathleen Watanabe Monday from the Hawaii State Hospital via a video conference on second-degree murder and DUI charges.

He was in court for a status of counsel hearing after his attorney, Emmanuel Guerrero, withdrew his services Dec. 13.

Watanabe appointed Shauna Cahill to represent Craft in future court proceedings.

“Mr. Craft told the court he wished to represent himself, but this court strongly urged him to be represented by counsel for many reasons, not the least of which are the severity of his charges,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe said she was ready to proceed with Cahill as standby counsel while Craft receives testing to decide if he’s fit to proceed with trial.

“Because Mr. Craft has raised the issue of representing himself, having Ms. Cahill appointed at this point, and then further addressing representation, would be in his and the state’s best interest,” she said.

During the proceedings, Cahill asked that she be appointed as Craft’s full counsel, at least to help guide him through the medical examination process.

“Since Mr. Craft has not been found fit yet, I don’t think he will pass the policy regarding representing yourself,” she said. “But what I’m willing to do is just continue this case out. I can go to the state hospital to visit him and explain his options, and we can go from there.”

Craft is facing second-degree murder and DUI charges relating to the 2015 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, according to reports.

Helppie, 37, died at the scene.

Craft, who was arrested on June 4, 2015, has been trying to get a new attorney for the last several months.

On Tuesday, Watanabe said a face-to-face meeting with Cahill and Craft is encouraged before proceedings continue.

“I believe Mr. Craft has made it clear to his former counsel, as well as to the court, that he has some opinions in how the case should proceed,” she said.

Craft will be back in court on Jan. 10 for a review hearing.

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