Monday, March 04, 2024 |
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Attorney Brian DeLima argues for his a client in Kona Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
Hilo attorney and community leader Brian De Lima died Tuesday, according to his older daughter. He was 66.
“It is a shock to the family and I am still in disbelief. We all needed more time,” Blaise De Lima posted on Facebook.
An alumnus of Hilo High School, Brian De Lima was a proponent of public education and served as the vice chairman of the state Board of Education during the last decade. He also was the BOE’s first student member in 1972.
De Lima’s younger daughter, Blaire, a special-needs student, found a staunch advocate in her father.
“Brian lived to fight for his community, and provided a voice for those who felt they had none, in particular as a champion and advocate of children with special needs,” U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele said in a statement.
In addition, De Lima served on the Hawaii County Council and in leadership positions in the county and state Democratic Party.
“I’ve known Brian for a lot of years,” Mayor Mitch Roth said. “He’s been a pillar of our community, as a councilman, as a member of the Board of Education, and as a defense attorney. He’s going to be missed.”
De Lima earned his baccalaureate degree in 1978 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his law degree in 1983 from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He was admitted to the Hawaii Bar in 1983.
As a law student, De Lima worked for the Hawaii County prosecutor’s office. Upon graduation, he was hoping for a job as a deputy prosecutor, but there were no open full-time positions.
Early in his career, De Lima built a reputation as an effective criminal defense lawyer, winning several high-profile cases.
He became a statewide name defending notorious North Shore surfer “Fast Eddie” Rothman in a cocaine distribution conspiracy trial on Oahu in 1990. TV news viewers and, apparently, the jurors were mesmerized as De Lima delivered pin pricks to a Mylar balloon he held in an arm, pointing out what he referred to as holes in the state’s case — until the balloon deflated and fell softly to the courtroom floor.
Rothman was found not guilty.
The balloon demonstration became a staple of De Lima’s courtroom arsenal. He employed it again in 2018 in Hilo Circuit Court during closing arguments in the second-degree murder trial of Wayne Teves, accused of the fatal shooting of Thaine Price in Waipio Valley.
The jury acquitted Teves.
Jeremy Butterfield, an associate in De Lima’s law office, said De Lima was “very generous with his time and his knowledge.”
“If anybody asked him a question or needed help and he could help them, he would,” Butterfield said. “He was a very charismatic attorney. He was easily the best litigator on the island, and the most seasoned.
“As a boss, he had an open-door policy. He always had time to talk. He was a great mentor.”
De Lima is survived by his wife, Paige, and daughters, Blaise and Blaire.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.
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