The trial for a couple accused of assaulting protesters at the University of Washington on inauguration night 2017 — resulting in a near-fatal shooting — will begin Monday, a reversal from earlier this week when jury selection was expected to be delayed pending an appeal over a ruling to exclude testimony from self-defense experts.
It’s unclear why jury selection is proceeding pending a defense appeal to the state Court of Appeals.
King County Superior Court Judge Kristin Richardson, who is presiding over the assault trial of Elizabeth and Marc Hokoana, both 31, declined through a court spokeswoman to discuss the scheduling change. Court records in the case also do not provide a reason.
It was expected that jury selection — originally scheduled to begin this past week — would be delayed until at least July 30, but a prosecutor’s spokesman said in a Friday email that jury selection would begin Monday.
Elizabeth Hokoana’s defense attorney, Steven Wells, also could not provide an explanation.
“I do not have any information beyond what you do as to why the situation has been changed. The parties were advised this morning that the court would not be in recess to allow the interlocutory appeal to proceed as anticipated. So, at this point, we start jury selection Monday,” Wells wrote in a Friday email.
The defense has previously indicated it plans to appeal Richardson’s pretrial rulings excluding expert witnesses the defense intended to call to buttress claims that Elizabeth Hokoana shot Joshua Phelan Dukes because she feared for the life of her husband, Marc Hokoana.
Charges filed more than two years ago accuse Elizabeth Hokoana of first-degree assault with a firearm enhancement, for shooting Dukes. Dukes, a 35-year-old computer-security expert, was shot in the stomach and critically injured when he purportedly rushed toward Marc Hokoana, who was using pepper spray on a crowd of protesters outside a planned speech by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at Kane Hall on Jan. 20, 2017. Dukes, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and an avowed anarchist, claimed to be a “peacekeeper” who was trying to prevent violence during the raucous protests.
If convicted, Elizabeth Hokoana faces up to 15 years in prison.
Marc Hokoana is charged with third-degree assault for using pepper spray against several “anti-fascist” protesters who were trying to disrupt the Yiannopoulos speech. The Hokoanas had tickets to attend the speech and, according to some social-media posts, are supporters of President Donald Trump and gun enthusiasts.
Elizabeth Hokoana has admitted she shot Dukes, but she claims she was justified. In claiming self-defense, the burden shifts to the state to disprove that she had reason to believe that she or her husband faced an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death — the legal standard for self-defense. Her attorneys had listed several expert witnesses who were to testify to that point, however Richardson sided with prosecutors and found their testimony inadmissible.
Earlier this week, it was revealed in court documents that Dukes has refused to cooperate with the attorneys and will not testify at the trial.