Murder trial lawyer hints at accident with pickup
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The defense for a man accused of murdering a Japanese visitor could center on whether the woman was accidentally hit by a pickup truck, attorney Don Wilkerson suggested in court yesterday.
Kirk Matthew Lankford, 23, is on trial in the murder of Masumi Watanabe, and Wilkerson asked Watanabe's mother whether Masumi Watanabe would get into a stranger's truck if she were accidentally hit by the truck.
Wilkerson has listed as possible defense witnesses an accident reconstruction expert and a forensic pathologist but might not call them to the stand.
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The attorney for a man on trial in the murder of a missing Japanese visitor suggested yesterday that the defense could be that he accidentally hit the woman with his pickup truck.
Kirk Matthew Lankford, 23, is on trial in the murder of Masumi Watanabe, either by commission, that is, causing her death, or by omission -- for failing to get help for her, knowing she had been a victim of a crime and was seriously injured.
Watanabe, 21, was last seen on April 12 last year walking on Pupukea Road.
Lankford's lawyer, Don Wilkerson, did not give an opening statement when the trial started Monday in Circuit Court. Jurors have so far heard city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle detail the state's case in his opening statement and testimony from prosecution witnesses.
Watanabe's mother, Fumiko, of Japan, was asked by Wilkerson whether her daughter would get into a stranger's truck. A witness had earlier testified she saw Watanabe get into a Hauoli Termite & Pest Control truck on Pupukea Road the day she disappeared.
Lankford was a pest control technician for Hauoli at the time and told police he was in the area that day for work.
Through a Japanese translator, Watanabe described her daughter as extremely shy and said she would never get into the truck on her own.
Wilkerson then asked Watanabe whether her daughter would get into the truck in an emergency.
Watanabe again responded no.
Then Wilkerson asked her, "What if she was accidentally hit by this truck?"
The question appeared to confuse Watanabe, who asked Wilkerson whether she heard his question correctly. She then said the only way her daughter might allow herself to be put into the truck was if she could not move.
Wilkerson had asked another prosecution witness earlier whether the morning sun casts shadows along Pupukea Road, making it difficult to see what was on the side of the road. The witness who said she saw Watanabe enter the Hauoli truck said she saw her at about 9:40 a.m.
Wilkerson has listed as possible defense witnesses an accident reconstruction expert and a forensic pathologist. To prevent Carlisle from questioning them before trial, Wilkerson said in court papers that the expert witnesses have information from his client that the prosecution could use to prove at least two elements of murder by omission and one element of murder by commission. And he said he might not call those witnesses for the trial.
Watanabe said her daughter had visited Hawaii twice before and that she allowed her to visit a third time so she would learn to be independent. She described her daughter as shy, socially isolated and almost completely dependent on her.
She cried when shown a picture of Masumi on a previous visit to Hawaii and when shown glasses believed to be Masumi's.