Saturday, July 30, 2005

Trial turns to
police conduct

Jurors will hear charges the
detective in a murder case lied

Veteran police Detective Larry Tamashiro says the lead detective in an Aiea murder case asked him to submit a request for a ballistics report but to backdate it.

Lead Detective Sheryl Sunia says she did not.

It will be left to jurors to decide which police officer is telling the truth.

Circuit Judge Michael Town ruled yesterday that jurors in an upcoming murder trial will be allowed to hear the allegations of misconduct against Sunia, as detailed in an anonymous letter sent to police Internal Affairs Division.

It will be the second trial for Micah Kanahele, Rosalino Ramos and Jason Rumbawa, who are charged with murdering Greg Morishima in October 2003 in a botched drug robbery. A fourth defendant, Anthony Brown, is charged with robbery in connection with the slaying.

Defense attorneys had argued that the jury should hear the allegations because they pertain to Sunia's credibility and to the integrity of the entire police investigation, which they have criticized as inept and incompetent.

Prosecutors contend the allegations are irrelevant, arguing that they do not show a consistent pattern of dishonest conduct by Sunia to influence the outcome of the case.

Town declared a mistrial in the case in April after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Shortly afterward, Internal Affairs received an anonymous letter accusing Sunia of perjury regarding testimony she gave at trial and the request to backdate a ballistics report.

Sunia, a 24-year police veteran and a detective since 1990, was the lead detective in the murder case responsible for the overall investigation, with Tamashiro assisting.

Sunia took the stand yesterday and denied asking Tamashiro to submit the request and to backdate it. "I never told Larry Tamashiro to do that," she said.

At the time the guns were found in November 2003, police learned from Kevin Harris, a defendant turned state's witness in the Morishima killing, that the guns in the duffel bag allegedly were used by Albert Batalona and his co-defendants in the Kahala American Savings Bank robbery in July 1999. The bag also allegedly contained plastic ties, beanies and other items Harris claimed were brought along during the Morishima slaying.

Tamashiro had given her the impression all along that he had submitted the request after she asked him to, back in July 2004, she said. But it was only after she testified on March 22 this year, after being grilled by the defense about the guns, that she learned Tamashiro had not done so.

She said she told Tamashiro to submit a request that day and notify the prosecutor.

Sunia said she might have used the words "backdated" or "dated back" during that discussion, but it was to ascertain whether there had been any requests dated back to when she initially told him to submit the request.

During questioning by Kanahele's attorney, Richard Hoke, Tamashiro said he was absolutely certain Sunia asked him to backdate the request.

Sunia was upset when he told her he had not submitted the request, he said. "She said something about 'You gotta hurry up and submit it,' and I told her I would."

Sunia broached the subject with him again when she returned to the office a short time later, and that is when she told him to backdate the request, he said. "I told her, 'Absolutely not.'"

When asked if he could have misinterpreted what she said, Tamashiro said, "There was no mistake on her meaning."

He submitted a request a few weeks later but did not backdate it, he said.

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