KAILUA-KONA — The jury trial for a former Hawaii Police officer accused of fatally striking a bicyclist in 2015 has been set back again after a 3rd Circuit Court judge decided to grant a continuance after initially denying the request in January.
During a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Melvin Fujino granted Jody Buddemeyer’s attorney, Brian De Lima, the continuance after counsel provided further detail into the reason why he had asked for the continuance on Jan. 30.
Originally slated for Feb. 13, Buddemeyer’s jury trial is now scheduled for May 22. This is the fifth continuance granted in the case.
“We expect that the expert reports will be completed prior to the set deadlines and we will then proceed to trial,” De Lima said after the hearing.
After Fujino denied De Lima’s request in January, the attorney filed a motion to reconsider the order on Jan. 31. In the document, De Lima detailed why he requested the continuance.
According to De Lima’s motion, an expert, based out of Portland, Oregon, was retained on Nov. 8, to conduct a field inspection and examination of the vehicle and bicycle involved in the crash. The tests were scheduled for Dec. 27.
“Arrangements were made through the Kona Police Department to inspect the evidence and, unfortunately, unbeknown to the defense, the custodian was unable to provide the bicycle light and the battery was removed from the vehicle so tests on the headlights could not be conducted,” the motion states.
The motion states that the expert advised he wasn’t available to do further inspection until the latter part of February or early March.
The motion indicates that the defense sought an expert regarding the flaw of the Hawaii County Police Department’s work schedule. It is anticipated that 60 days are needed to complete the report.
Buddemeyer pleaded not guilty in October 2016 to charges of first-degree negligent homicide, tampering with physical evidence and making a false report to law enforcement in connection with the March 1, 2015, crash that killed Jeffrey Surnow, a 69-year-old visitor from Michigan.
Police say Buddemeyer was operating a subsidized patrol car eastbound and was on-duty when his vehicle struck and killed Surnow, of West Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, as he rode his bicycle east up Waikoloa Road. The collision, which Buddemeyer reported at 6:25 a.m., occurred near mile marker 11.
A police misconduct report, which does not include names, said an officer was terminated in 2015 for tampering with the scene after being involved in a traffic fatality. Buddemeyer is no longer on the department’s sworn personnel list.
First responders with the Hawaii Fire Department initially reported the incident as a hit-and-run after Surnow was found lying face down near a “severely damaged” bicycle on the road’s shoulder. They noted he had died prior to their arrival.