Lankford jury set to visit key sites
The Oahu locations have been mentioned during his murder trial
Jurors in the Kirk Lankford murder trial might visit a spot in Kualoa today but will not know why.
Lankford, 23, is on trial in Circuit Court on murder charges in the presumed death of missing Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe.
The jurors are scheduled to visit sites and locations mentioned in testimony by prosecution witnesses. The sites reflect Watanabe's movements in the Pupukea area on April 12 last year -- the day she disappeared -- and Lankford's movements that same day, according to the Global Positioning System beacon in his Hauoli Termite & Pest Control company truck.
The tour is also scheduled to include the Kahana Bay fishpond, where a witness said he saw Lankford digging a hole by flashlight at about midnight the day Watanabe disappeared.
Lankford's lawyer, Don Wilkerson, complained to Judge Karl Sakamoto that since there will be no other opportunity for a site visit during the trial, he is being forced to reveal his client's defense before the prosecution has completed presenting its case.
"If the defense chooses to participate in that site visit and show the jury certain places up in Pupukea and other areas of the island, then we will have essentially been forced to put on evidence in the middle of the state's case, shifting the burden to the defense," he said.
Wilkerson used a similar argument to prevent Prosecutor Peter Carlisle from interviewing a potential defense witness, an accident reconstruction expert, before trial.
Sakamoto said the purpose of today's site visits is to give jurors the opportunity to view the relative distances of the sites. No one will speak to or point anything out to the jurors at the different locations, and they are not allowed to speak to each other.
Wilkerson mentioned one location he would like the jurors to visit as part of Lankford's defense.
"The defense intends to point the jury in the direction of Chinaman's Hat. It will be at a point alongside the road, on Kam Highway," he said.
Wilkerson did not explain why. He did not give an opening statement, which might have revealed his client's defense.
However, in questions to prosecution witnesses, he has hinted that Watanabe might have been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
It has been almost a year since Watanabe, 21, disappeared.
Officer Phil Camaro of the Honolulu Police Department's Missing Person Detail said HPD has organized and participated in 44 extensive searches for her, the most recent last weekend in the Hauula area.