Client denies killing bookie
A videotape from the scene is not evidence, the suspect contends
A Waimanalo construction worker accused of murdering his bookie Robert Lee contends there is no evidence showing he did it.
"Somebody else shot Mr. Lee," said defense attorney Jeffrey Hawk.
Referring to a surveillance video that shows Hiramoto in the area, Hawk said, "Donny Hiramoto was merely present at the scene."
Hiramoto, 33, went on trial for second-degree murder yesterday before Circuit Court Judge Steve Alm. He is accused of shooting Lee in the garage of the family-owned Makiki apartment complex on Dec. 22, 2004.
Police found Lee's cell phone next to his body and began combing his recent call list and interviewing individuals whose names popped up, including Hiramoto's.
Hiramoto, when questioned by police, initially denied being at Lee's apartment that night, Hawk said. But he said he spoke to Lee on the phone earlier that night and that he told Lee he would stop by to make a payment on a gambling debt. He told police he never intended to pay Lee, because he needed the money for gifts and went shopping instead at Toys R Us.
But Deputy Prosecutor Darrell Wong said police later viewed video from surveillance cameras at the apartment complex that had been installed just three days earlier, and saw evidence contradicting Hiramoto's statements.
Three people who knew Hiramoto, including his wife, Melinda McCoy, identified him as the man on the video walking into the back of Lee's apartment complex and around in the garage a half-hour before the Lees arrived home, Wong said.
Hiramoto was seen carrying a shoulder bag and had his hand inside the bag.
At 7:59 p.m., Lee and his wife arrived home after an aborted trip to Hiramoto's home in Waimanalo and a stop at Times Super Market. They had turned around after Lee received a phone call on his cell from a "Donny" saying he would come to their apartment instead.
Lights appearing on the apartment surveillance video reportedly were from Lee's truck as he reversed into the parking garage. Within seconds he was dead.
Hawk said Hiramoto arrived at Lee's apartment complex at about 7:30 p.m., as they had agreed on the phone, and waited and waited.
Later, John Lean, a cellmate of Hiramoto's at Oahu Community Correctional Center, contacted prosecutors saying Hiramoto had confided in him about killing Lee and what happened that night, Wong said.
The cellmate, who was facing jail time as a repeat offender, reached a deal with prosecutors to reduce his sentence for testifying for the state.