Testimony on Suicide Threat Allowed in Capobianco Murder Trial
Maui Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza on Wednesday said he would allow testimony relating to a witness account about a suicide threat by Steven Capobianco, who is standing trial for the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Carly “Charli” Scott. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Scott was 27-years-old and five months pregnant with a child fathered by Capobianco when she went missing in February of 2014. Witnesses who have testified in the trial say Scott’s clothing and personal belongings were found at Nuaʻailua Bay in East Maui. Police say body parts and hair were also recovered from the scene.
Capobianco’s friend, Adam Gaines, began his testimony on Wednesday, but at one point was called to testify in a separate hearing without the jury present so that the court could determine if subject matter he had knowledge of, was permissible in court.
During the hearing, Gaines testified that, “He (Capobianco) said he had been trying to kill himself, and if I believed he killed Charli, (for me) to come and kill him.”
The defense sought to exclude the statement from testimony before the jury, with Capobianco’s attorney, Jon Apo arguing, that police, “obviously coordinated their efforts.” Apo asked Gaines if he received instructions from police before meeting Capobianco, to which Gaines responded, “No.”
Gaines said he believed Capobianco was trying to set him up, when he received the communication from the defendant on May 8, 2014, so he pulled over while driving toward Pāʻia in an area near Baldwin Beach, and contacted a detective with the Maui Police Department.
Gaines said that after contacting police, he spoke with Capobianco again. “I told him I did not want to hurt him and if he would meet with me,” Gaines testified. Gaines said he made arrangements to meet Capobianco at a place he had been working, roughly in the vicinity of the “Wharf” in Lahaina.
Prior to meeting up with the defendant, Gaines said he met with detectives at Māʻalaea to discuss his safety before heading out to Lahaina. Gaines recalled that it was already evening, and dark outside by the time he arrived in West Maui.
While police arrived at the meeting spot as well, Gaines said the detectives were away from the actual spot where Gaines and Capobianco were, but that Gaines could see the detectives in his peripheral vision.
When asked to describe Capobianco’s demeanor, Gaines said, “He was sad. I don’t know, calm I guess.”
During the meeting, Gaines said he asked Capobianco “lots of questions” about the night of Feb. 9, 2014 (the last time Capobianco saw Scott).
According to Gaines, Capobianco responded to questions and at one point walked over by detectives and sat on the ground.
Defense attorney Apo argued that there was “no evidence” to support Gaines’ testimony that the meeting was a legitimate response to a suicide threat. “This whole incident was a ruse to get an interview with the defendant relative to Feb. 8 (2014),” and, “nominal questions about his health on May 8 (2014),” said Apo.
Prosecuting attorney Robert Rivera offered remarks as well, saying “the only ruse, if any, was by the defendant. He put into play all of this, knowing that he had a counselor and was being questioned for an unrelated crime.” He continued saying, “The detectives were there to ensure the safety of both individuals.”
Apo said the “premise that they were there to address a suicidal threat,” was not accurate and argued that Steven Capobianco, “was being investigated as a prime suspect after asserting his 5th amendment rights in a prior interview.”
Judge Cardoza said that in considering the record, there was nothing to support that Gaines was acting as an agent for the Maui Police Department. “Gaines has testified that his concern was for his own personal safety. It was not an interrogation by police,” said Judge Cardoza at the conclusion of the hearing.
“There is nothing to support exclusion of this,” said Judge Cardoza, saying it is, “logical” that two detectives would have responded. “I’m satisfied that this was not the product of government planning, solicitation or otherwise,” the judge said, noting that it was at “a friends request” that this encounter take place.
“The statements made were voluntarily made by all accounts, and were put into play by the defendant himself,” said Judge Cardoza.
Trial is set to resume on Friday, Aug. 12 with continued testimony from Gaines.