The trial for a couple accused of assaulting protesters on the University of Washington campus on inauguration night 2017 — resulting in a near-fatal shooting — has been delayed until at least July 30 pending an appeal over a ruling excluding the testimony of self-defense experts.
Jury selection in the trial for the Marc and Elizabeth Hokoanas, both 31, was scheduled to begin this week. However, defense attorneys for the couple obtained a delay so they can appeal a ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Kristin Richardson 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.
Dukes, 35, a 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. Elizabeth Hokoana has said he was armed with a knife.
Dan Katzer, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said Thursday that the defense has taken the adverse rulings to the Washington State Court of Appeals, and that jury selection will resume after the issue is resolved. He suggested a date of July 30, but said it could be sooner or later, depending on what the appeals court does.
A telephone call seeking comment from Steven Wells, Elizabeth Hokoana’s defense attorney, was not immediately returned.
The case has seen its share of twists.
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. He had sought a face-to-face meeting with the Hokoanas as part of his belief in “restorative justice,” but was refused.
In a statement, Dukes said he refused to testify “because punitive justice does not bring closure or healing and will not prevent similar violence in the future.”
“The result of the Hokoanas’ trial, guilty or not, will only affirm their actions, by state sanction or by martyrdom, and perpetuate the cycle of trauma and violence,” Dukes wrote.
Charges filed more than two years ago accuse Elizabeth Hokoana of first-degree assault with a firearm enhancement, for shooting Dukes. If convicted, she 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.
Prosecutors alleged the couple showed up to the event looking for a confrontation. Marc Hokoana was armed with pepper-spray and told a friend on social media that he was “going full melee” to goad the so-called “antifa” protesters into a fight, with his Glock-toting wife as backup.
Several hours later, the Hokoanas showed up at the UW police station and turned themselves in, claiming they were “reporting a self-defense shooting.”