Court Advances Suit by Dead Informant's Mom
by Nicholas Fillmore, Court House News, May 17, 2016
HONOLULU (CN) — A federal judge in Hawaii ruled that the mother of a confidential informant who was murdered during a drug investigation can pursue claims against Hawaii County on behalf of her son's estate.
Keawe Ryder, a 37-year old Kona musician, was found dead in a South Kohala lava field in 2013. He had been shot and hit with a hammer.
The May 11 ruling by U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor leaves claims made by Ryder's mother Debra — acting on behalf of her son's estate — intact, but dismisses similar claims by Keawe's brothers Buddy and Wailua Ryder for lack of standing.
Debra Ryder claims that the county put her son in harm's way by failing to keep his cooperation with law enforcement secret. This led to Keawe's murder by Martin Frank Booth, who was the subject of an investigation.
According to the mother, the county and its police department then hid the nature and circumstances of Keawe's death in an attempt to cover up their complicity. An affidavit filed by police said the killing occurred after an acquaintance told Booth that Keawe had assaulted her.
In its motion to dismiss, the county submitted a liability waiver form it claims was signed by Keawe. Gillmor declined to review the document, however, since it had not been properly submitted.
However, Gillmor found that Keawe's estate has at this point sufficiently alleged that Hawaii County and its police department may bear responsibility for the musician's death and may have known of the danger Booth posed to Keawe.
The judge dismissed all Hawaii constitutional claims with prejudice, finding that the state does not have a civil rights equivalent to federal law.
Additionally, Gillmor kept the estate's claims of negligence, wrongful death, infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision and training against the county for now.
Booth pleaded guilty in 2014 to second-degree murder in the death of Ryder and is serving a life sentence with possibility of parole. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution remained mum during sentencing.
The Ryders have until June 15 to amend their complaint.
PDF: Court Order