Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Jurors in the trial of former policeman Clyde Arakawa visited the intersection of School Street and Pali Highway last night, the site where Dana Ambrose was struck. City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle was there, and emphasized the importance of jury visits to crime scenes.

Witness says
Arakawa ran red,
stumbled from car

The former cop is on trial for
manslaughter for the fatal accident

By Debra Barayuga, Treena Shapiro and Rod Antone

Clyde Arakawa ran a red light the night his white Thunderbird slammed into the driver's side of Dana Ambrose's car and sent both cars careening into a pillar, killing Ambrose, a witness testified today.

Bricyn Afong, 19, said he stopped at a red light on the Pali Highway at School Street, noticed a car's headlights advancing behind him in his rear view mirror and heard an engine revving. Then he said the car switched lanes and passed him on the left.

"It happened so fast. When the car passed it was still red, the light."

Afong said he heard two loud crashes, first as the cars collided, then as they "flew into the pillar and the traffic light." While he was still stopped, people gathered at the crash site to help, Afong said. Meanwhile, Arakawa "got out of the car ... kind of stumbled a little bit, closed the door and looked around," he said.

Today is the second day in the manslaughter trial for the former police officer, who is accused of being drunk when his car broadsided Ambrose's car at the intersection of Pali Highway and School Street on Oct. 7, 2000

Afong's testimony backs up his girlfriend Claren Damaso, who testified yesterday that Arakawa ran the red light right before the collision.

Damaso said Arakawa's car "was going really fast, no intention of stopping at all" when he passed them.

After dialing 911 and handing the phone to her boyfriend, Damaso said she got out and walked toward the cars thinking she could help, but turned back because it looked like a bad accident.

Although he could not estimate Arakawa's speed, Afong said that he thought Arakawa's car was going pretty fast because "it happened so fast, it just passed me and when it hit the other car it was kind of bad." He said that he did not see Arakawa's brake lights go on.

During cross examination, Arakawa's attorney Michael Ostendorp questioned Afong about whether he could tell if Dana Ambrose had a green light when she went through the intersection and about what he and his girlfriend did before they got to the intersection.

Last night jurors visited the scene of the crash.

"A visit to the scene can be very helpful in a case," city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said last night, prior to jurors arriving to the crash scene. "Though I can't talk about this case specifically, visits in general mean the jury is able to gauge distance and actual size and get a better perspective of what happened."

Jurors arrived at the scene at about 9:20 p.m., after Honolulu police stopped traffic from crossing the intersection of School and Pali for about half an hour.

No one was allowed to speak with jurors, and jurors were prohibited from speaking to one another during the visit.

All 12 jurors plus four alternates, accompanied by Circuit Judge Karen Ahn, walked around quietly for about 7 minutes, some writing in notebooks, others just observing. All appeared attentive and alert.

In his arguments for the visit, Carlisle noted that the layout of the intersection is complex and difficult to describe.

"With a scene visit, the jury will have a better appreciation for the locations, movements and actions of the defendant, victim and witnesses during the collision," Carlisle said.

Jurors also will have a frame of reference when presented with physical evidence recovered from the scene and exhibits, he said.

Arakawa and his attorney did not object to the visit. Arakawa, however, waived his presence at last night's visit.

Since the collision, a traffic light that was severed at its base after Arakawa's car crashed through it and a support pole that also was struck have been replaced.

Also yesterday, Cheryl Castro testified she and her sister-in-law had just taken the Pali off-ramp from the H-1 freeway and were stopped at the light when they noticed a white car go by on Pali Highway. She estimated the car to be going about 50 to 60 mph.

"Did you see how fast that car was going?" she said she asked her sister-in-law at the time.

Just three seconds after she spoke, they heard a loud crash, and the traffic signal facing them and the ones on the Pali immediately went dark, she said.

Although she didn't see the crash, she assumed the white car was somehow involved.

"Oh my God, I think he hit something," she recalled saying.

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