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Man whose murder conviction was overturned is free on bail


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POSTED: Sunday, August 16, 2009

Question: What ever happened to Taryn Christian, who was convicted of murdering 23-year-old Vilmar Cabaccang in a car theft in 1995 but whose conviction was overturned by U.S. District Judge David Ezra in 2008?

Answer: Christian, who was 19 at the time of his conviction, is out on $100,000 bail, pending the outcome of the Maui County prosecutor's challenge to Ezra's decision before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Christian lost several appeals to his conviction in state courts, including an appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1998, affirming the murder conviction.

After he had exhausted his state appeals, he filed appeals in federal court, where Ezra heard his case and overturned the conviction.

Ezra contended the Hawaii Supreme Court made a mistake and that a Circuit Court judge should not have excluded the testimony of two defense witnesses.

County First Deputy Prosecutor Peter Hanano said the written briefs for the appeal have been filed at the 9th Circuit and attorneys are waiting for a date to present oral arguments before the court.

Hanano said if the county should lose the appeal, it would move forward with placing Christian on trial again on a murder charge.

Christian was serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole in a mainland prison after his conviction in 1997 of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted theft in the stabbing death of Cabaccang.

Cabaccang was stabbed fatally after pursuing and struggling with a car thief along Kulanihakoi Street in the early morning of July 14, 1995.

Christian hoped to present testimony from others who allegedly heard a confession from an acquaintance saying he killed Cabaccang.

The judge ruled out the testimonies after police interviewed two people who said the acquaintance, Hina Burkhart, was at a different location that night, according to court records.

Cabaccang's girlfriend, Serena Seidel, and a bystander also identified Christian during a lineup of photographs of suspects.

During hearings to overturn the conviction last year, evidence showed blood on a jacket found at the scene of the murder contained Christian's DNA, prosecutors said.  ———

Star-Bulletin staff update was written by Gary T. Kubota. You can write us at What Ever Happened to… Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).