KEALAKEKUA — A 3rd Circuit Court judge declared a mistrial in the murder case against two brothers after a jury came back Thursday with the unanimous agreement they were “hopelessly deadlocked” in coming together on a verdict.
The prosecution and defense will now prepare for a second trial in the case for Eber Miranda-Garcia and his brother Marlon, who are both accused of second-degree murder in the killing of their landlord, Dolores “Lolo” Borja-Valle in 2015.
The decision came down Thursday afternoon when the jury submitted a question to the court: “We cannot reach a unanimous decision … how shall we proceed?”
The court’s agreed upon response with attorneys was: “Would you be able to render a unanimous verdict if given more time, or are you hopelessly deadlocked?”
The jury, comprised of seven women and five men, came back with the response they were hopelessly deadlocked.
The jurors were brought into the courtroom and each asked again if they agreed they deadlocked. The agreement was unanimous.
“The court will discharge the jury at this time,” said Judge Robert D.S. Kim. “Court finds there is true inability to agree upon a verdict.”
At that point, Kim declared a mistrial.
“I’d like to thank you all,” the judge added. “This was a long trial; you all worked very hard.”
When court was adjourned, attorneys in the case expressed their dismay.
Terri Fujioka-Lilley, defense counsel for Eber Miranda-Garcia, said she’s disappointed, but trusts the jury did the best it could.
“It is a disappointing outcome,” she said.
Deputy Public Defender Wendy DeWeese, defense counsel for Marlon Miranda-Garcia, added the same sentiment.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed it was a hung jury,” she said. “I’m not disappointed in their effort, just disappointed in the outcome.”
Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson said the state will try the case again.
“They (jury) did a great job,” Lawson added. “We’ll proceed with trial again in this case.”
A new trial date is yet to set by the court.
Eber Miranda-Garcia and his brother Marlon were arrested in June 2017 for the killing of Lolo.
Lolo’s body was found Aug. 9, 2015, in a Captain Cook coffee field off Keopuka Mauka Road. The decedent’s truck was found abandoned in Ocean View a day later.
Hawaii County Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial that showed Marlon Miranda-Garcia’s phone had made contact with Eber’s the night Lolo died. Cellphone tower information indicated that the brothers were in the area where Lolo’s body was found as well as where the truck was dumped the night the 69-year-old died.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that indicated Eber Miranda-Garcia’s DNA was in Lolo’s truck.
Defense counselors questioned the state’s evidence throughout the case, putting on experts to discredit the DNA lab prosecutors used to test DNA in the case.
The defense also questioned the reliability of the phone records, saying police only checked the phone numbers they recognized, while there were 45 other cellphones active on those towers during the time Lolo was murdered.
On top of that, the defense argued not all leads were followed through during the course of the police investigation.
Both brothers took the stand in their defense and changed their alibis for the night Lolo was murdered.
Marlon Miranda-Garcia originally told authorities he was home. While on the stand, he testified he was on his way to an establishment called Las Martas in Kona when he picked up a hitchhiker who asked for a ride to Ocean View.
The 25-year-old said he had called his brother Eber because he was driving his car and it started to have mechanical problems.
In June 2017, Eber Miranda-Garcia confessed to killing Lolo. During a police-recorded interview, the 28-year-old said he killed his landlord because he threatened to take his wife and daughter away from him and call immigration.
While on the stand, Eber Miranda-Garcia said, the confession was a lie. The night Lolo died he was at the Korner Pocket in Kealakekua drinking and playing pool.
He testified that he confessed to the crime because at the time he was taken into custody last June, detectives told him his entire family had been arrested and he didn’t want his daughter to grow up without a mother or uncles.