Murder trial to get
blood samples

Prosecutors want to compare
DNA evidence with substances
found at the Pali Golf Course

Prosecutors will be allowed to obtain blood samples from three men accused in the Pali Golf Course shootings to determine if they match evidence recovered by police, a Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday.

The bloodlike substances were obtained from numerous locations at the golf course -- including shell casings recovered at the scene, cars in the parking lot and inside two cars that the defendants allegedly used to flee after the shootings, homicide Detective Kathleen Osmond said.

Circuit Judge Michael Town granted the state's request over the objection of all three defendants, who argued the state's request is premature given police have not yet completed an analysis of the substances.

Charged with first- and second-degree murder in the shootings are Rodney Joseph Jr., 35, Ethan Motta, 34, and Kevin Gonsalves, 33.

Killed in the Jan. 7 shootings were Lepo Taliese, 44, also known as Lepo Utu, and his brother-in-law Romelius Corpus, 40. Police sources have said the shooting stemmed from factions fighting for control of security at illegal gambling houses throughout Oahu. Also injured was Corpuz's brother, Tinoimolo Sao, 42.

Osmond said yesterday that blood was found on the carpet and seat of a Ford Explorer the driver said was used to drive Motta, who lives in Hilo, to Honolulu Airport, where he was arrested just hours after the shooting.

The witness gave police conflicting statements about where the blood may have come from, saying it might have stemmed from a fight between Joseph and Motta who had fought in the Explorer, resulting in bleeding injuries, or from the three shooting victims.

Blood was also found on the inside and outside of a Ford Taurus that witnesses described leaving the scene.

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said the defendants' blood samples are necessary for the state to rule out or link the defendants to the victims, their presence at the shooting scene or in the two cars that were reportedly linked to the shootings. Providing the defendants' blood samples now will enable police to include or exclude the victims or defendants in one single test rather than testing the recovered evidence and defendants' blood samples separately, he said.

"I'm not assuming they will concede they were there or shot a gun," Van Marter said. "At this point we're just trying to link them to the scene."

Deputy Public Defender Todd Eddins, who represents Motta, said submitting the defendants to an invasive blood draw violates their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures and that prosecutors need to show probable cause before being allowed to obtain the samples. Nothing in state statutes calls for defendants who have not been convicted to provide DNA, he said.

Attorney Cliff Hunt, who represents Gonsalves, argued that prosecutors have not provided any trustworthy evidence to enable the court to conclude that the blood recovered in the case belongs to any of the defendants and is relevant to the investigation. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that individuals may be subjected to blood testing only after a search warrant has been obtained and after probable cause has been established.


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