Thursday, July 12, 2001

Manslaughter verdict
in murder case

Joseph Victorino's conviction
leaves the victim's son disappointed

By Debra Barayuga

A 56-year-old man accused of murdering another man at a Kalihi bar nearly 15 years ago was found guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter, based on extreme mental and emotional distress.

Although the defense is relieved Joseph "Binzo" Victorino was not convicted of murder, which is punishable by life imprisonment, defense attorney Richard Hoke said he will ask that the conviction be set aside.

Victorino was accused of shooting Michael B. Maher, 41, at the now-closed PWC Bar in November 1986. Victorino fled the state and was located recently in Washington state.

The defense had argued that Victorino shot in self-defense after realizing he was being overpowered during an assault by the much heavier Maher. But there was no evidence presented at trial that Victorino was emotionally or mentally disturbed, Hoke said yesterday.

Deputy prosecutor Wayne Tashima called the verdict "puzzling" and said he would talk to city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle on how to proceed with sentencing.

The jury had the option of returning a verdict on the lesser included offense of manslaughter based either on reckless conduct or extreme mental and emotional disturbance.

John Maher of Oregon, the victim's son, sat through the four-day trial and disagreed with the verdict. "Cold-blooded murder is all it was," he said.

Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima had said Victorino went looking for Maher and shot him because he had earlier threatened his employees and called them names. Maher was angry because Victorino, a scrap dealer, had impounded his cars, which contained valuable roofing tools, said Tashima.

John Maher said his father was upset because his work truck and personal car were illegally tagged by Victorino and improperly impounded before the 30-day notice as required by law.

Maher, who was present when Victorino showed up with a forklift to impound his father's cars, said Victorino was "greedy" and knew they contained tools that cost more than the cars themselves.

Maher said testimony during trial showed his father grabbed a chair to shield himself only after he was shot once by Victorino, then was shot two more times.

The defense had said that Victorino had been kicked and punched by Maher and saw him coming with a chair before he pulled out a gun and fired.

Victorino, the defense said, carried the gun for protection after he found it in one of the cars he impounded from Maher.

John Maher denies his father ever owned a gun or left it in his car.

If the conviction stands, Victorino faces 10 years because the slaying occurred in 1986. The law was later changed, making manslaughter punishable by 20 years.

Victorino also faces 10 years for carrying a firearm without a permit. He will be sentenced Sept. 18.

Hoke said Victorino is eligible for probation and will argue for it at sentencing based on Victorino's health. Victorino has only one lung and is very ill, Hoke said.

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