Federal judge overturns Maui murder conviction


POSTED: Saturday, October 04, 2008

WAILUKU » The mother of a Maui murder victim says she became physically ill after hearing the news that the man convicted of killing her son might be released or receive a new trial.


Taryn Christian: His conviction in a 1995 murder on Maui is overturned, but prosecutors plan to appeal


“;I am sick about that. I almost die because of that. I'm hurting,”; said Marita Cabaccang, mother of the late Vilmar Cabaccang.

Cabaccang said she went to the hospital yesterday for medical treatment after learning that a federal judge overturned the conviction on Tuesday.

Maui County First Deputy Prosecutor Peter Hanano said his office plans to appeal the decision, which would release or give a new trial to Taryn Christian, 32.

Christian is 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 23-year-old Vilmar Cabaccang.

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

Hanano said the prosecutor's office is unclear as to whether U.S. District Judge David Ezra's ruling would permit Christian to be released pending the appeal.

Attorney Keith Shigetomi, who helped to represent Christian on the appeal, said Ezra's decision gives Christian a second chance to prove his innocence.

“;When you get a new trial, it's like starting over. ... That's important,”; Shigetomi said.

Ezra, disagreeing with a Hawaii Supreme Court decision in 1998 affirming the murder and theft conviction, said a Maui circuit judge should not have excluded the testimony of two defense witnesses.

Christian, a citizen of South Africa, said another man committed the murder but that a Maui Circuit judge prevented two defense witnesses from testifying during the trial.

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

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

Maui police received a tip about Christian from his girlfriend, who said he had told her he killed Cabaccang.

Police executed a search warrant at Christian's home and found gloves similar to the ones found at the murder scene and also a photograph of Christian wearing a similar baseball cap left during the struggle.

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

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