Thursday, February 14, 2002

Arakawa contends
police mishandled

In an interview, the former officer
says HPD failed to photograph
the traffic light bulbs

By Leila Fujimori

Former police officer Clyde Arakawa said his case may have been hurt because police mishandled evidence.

Arakawa spoke to the Star-Bulletin yesterday in an exclusive interview after the final two witnesses testified in his manslaughter trial.

Arakawa is accused of driving drunk and killing 19-year-old Dana Ambrose in a collision at Pali Highway and School Street on Oct. 7, 2000.

Arakawa said a promotion is in store for the police sergeant who he believes mishandled evidence and testified for the prosecution. In contrast, the officer who consoled him at the accident scene was demoted, Arakawa said.

He said Sgt. David Talon failed to have the traffic light bulbs photographed in their original position before he removed them, put the bulbs in a cardboard container and placed them in his desk drawer rather than turn them over to the evidence room.

Talon testified earlier that he did not photograph the bulbs at the scene because he did not have a camera, but he did mark their position in the traffic light fixture.

He said he kept the bulbs locked in his desk for safekeeping.

"They deviated from procedures," said Arakawa.

A prosecution expert testified the light on the Pali was red for Arakawa and the light on School Street was green for Ambrose, based upon the condition of the bulbs' filaments.

"He (Talon) had to make everything fit," Arakawa said of Talon's testimony. "That was his job."

The defense claims Arakawa had the yellow light and was traveling 38 mph, while Ambrose was speeding at 50 mph and ran the red light.

Talon will be promoted Sunday to lieutenant, but he passed a written exam taken Sept. 9, 2000, putting him in line for promotion before the accident occurred.

"I know this doesn't have anything to do with the case at all," said Capt. Bryan Wauke of the Honolulu Police Department Traffic Division.

Arakawa told the Star-Bulletin that while Talon will be promoted, police officer Colin Wong, who was seen putting his arm around him in a KHON-TV news clip of the accident scene, had been demoted to dispatch duty for six months, simply for comforting him.

"He offered me moral support, comfort," Arakawa said. "I was depressed."

Arakawa said Wong even wrote in his police report that he appeared depressed and sad.

Police would not comment on Wong's status.

Police Chief Lee Donohue stated a few days after the accident that fellow officers did extend courtesies to Arakawa when he was allowed to walk freely about the accident scene.

Arakawa, 50, told Circuit Judge Karen Ahn yesterday it was his decision not to testify in his own defense.

Both sides rested yesterday afternoon after presenting final witnesses.

Attorneys will present closing arguments today and are expected to finish by this afternoon.

The jury may begin deliberation as early as this afternoon.

Sgt. James Addison was recalled to the stand by the prosecution yesterday to rebut the defense expert's testimony that Arakawa was going 38 mph on Pali Highway while Ambrose was speeding 50 mph on School Street.

Jurors watched Addison's computer simulation, which he created Sunday, showing Ambrose's vehicle would have missed the concrete pillar it crashed into if the two vehicles had been traveling at those speeds.

Michael Ostendorp, Arakawa's attorney, called motorcycle rider Michael Torres, who testified he heard the crash after going through the intersection Ewa-bound on School Street.

During a Dec. 9, 2000, oral deposition in the Ambrose family's civil lawsuit against Arakawa, Torres stated no one else was at the intersection while he waited at the red light on School Street.

However, in yesterday's testimony, he waffled, saying at first he saw no other headlights, then said, "I didn't take notice."

"First thing in my mind, somebody ran the red light (on Pali)," Torres said.

Torres said the light was still green on School Street when he heard the boom of the crash.

He told the jury he did not call police because he was afraid he would be questioned about his own drinking and driving.

He said he came forward and spoke on television news after hearing Arakawa assert his innocence.

Ostendorp said he called Torres to show the lack of credibility of eyewitnesses, including those who testified they were waiting at a red light on Pali Highway when a car coming from behind whizzed past them.

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