A jury trial for an accused trafficker of methamphetamine, Mr. Aiken Uehara, which began on March 29, was declared a mistrial by the Supreme Court on April 7 and rescheduled for June 14.
The court order signed by Presiding Justice Kathleen Salii states that the defendant’s motion for a mistrial and dismissal of the information was made on April 2, and “after hearing from the counsel” and “good cause having been shown”, the motion was granted. The eight-person jury is discharged, and a new jury will be summoned on June 14. Mr. Uehara, meanwhile, will return to police custody while awaiting the new court date.
Mr. Uehara is charged on One Count of Trafficking a Controlled Substance and Possession of More Than One Gram of a Controlled Substance, and is pleading not guilty to the charges.
Court sources say that the motion for a mistrial was made on the basis that the delays in the case without a sequestered jury would mean that the jury would no longer be neutral. The trial was initially postponed for two days when Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Sullivan of the Office of the Attorney General fell sick. Defense Attorney Johnson Toribiong allegedly argued that media coverage on the trial during this time, including a previous article which appeared in Island Times, would prejudice the jury.
Court sources also say that the declaration of a mistrial was partially caused by one of the Republic’s witnesses who had previously agreed to testify in return for a reduced sentence. However, when the witness appeared in court, he allegedly refused to testify and then left the courtroom.
Mr. Uehara was initially arrested for trafficking and possession of methamphetamine in April 2020, but posted $50 thousand cash bail on the same day. His bail was later revoked early this year, after allegedly having been caught again in possession of meth.
The case is one of many drug-trafficking cases which are coming up for trial in the recent and coming months, with Mr. Silverio Rengulbai convicted of trafficking and possession of meth and due for sentencing today, and Mr. Burton Wenty due to stand trial for meth possession in May. Bureau of Public Safety Director Ismael Aguon says that the many drug cases which the Court is seeing are the results of drug investigations from the past one-to-four years which are just now coming up for trial.