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Appeals court affirms Capobianco murder conviction

He was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 2014

Steven Capobianco appears in 2nd Circuit Court in February 2017. The Intermediate Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed the 2nd Circuit Court convictions of Capobianco, who in 2016 was found guilty of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and setting fire to her vehicle in 2014. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

A state appeals court affirmed the 2nd Circuit Court convictions of Steven Capobianco, who was found guilty of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and setting fire to her vehicle.

In an order issued Tuesday, the Intermediate Court of Appeals said there was sufficient evidence for jurors to convict Capobianco of both charges.

“When considered in the strongest light for the prosecution, there was evidence of sufficient quality and probative value to enable the jury to conclude that Capobianco intentionally or knowingly caused Scott’s death,” the court order said.

It rejected Capobianco’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during his trial that spanned seven months and included 75 witnesses before the jury returned the guilty verdicts in December 2016.

Capobianco was found guilty of second-degree murder of Carly “Charli” Scott and second-degree arson of her Toyota 4Runner.

He was the last person known to have seen Scott alive.

He told police that on the night of Feb. 9, 2014, she drove him from Haiku to about 3 miles past Keanae, where he said his truck had stalled the night before. After fixing a loose battery cable on his truck, Capobianco said he was driving back to Haiku, with Scott following, when he lost sight of her headlights in the Twin Falls area.

At the time, the 27-year-old Makawao resident was five months pregnant with a son fathered by Capobianco.

In March 2017, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza sentenced Capobianco to life in prison with the possibility of parole for murder plus 10 years for arson, ordering that Capobianco serve the prison terms consecutively.

Cardoza later denied Capobianco’s request for a new trial that was based in part on allegations of juror misconduct.

After the jury had deliberated for nine days, a jury communication Dec. 13, 2016, said the jury was deadlocked and couldn’t reach a verdict. About 15 minutes after the jury left for the day, a juror called the bailiff to say she had a concern about the communication, according to the appeals court order.

During a hearing the next morning with the judge and attorneys, the juror said that she and other jurors hadn’t been told about the communication before it was sent to the court. Attorneys agreed to a court proposal to send a communication asking the jury whether further deliberations would assist the jury in reaching a verdict or whether jurors were hopelessly deadlocked. Later that day, the court received a jury communication that jurors had decided to continue to deliberate.

After a break in deliberations from Dec. 21 to 27, 2016, the jury reached verdicts on Dec. 28, 2016.

In appealing his case, Capobianco argued that he was prejudiced by the break in deliberations around the Christmas holiday “where it was virtually impossible to avoid hearing news reports or public opinion” about the case.

In its order Tuesday, the appeals court said that “upon review of the entire record in this case, we conclude that the Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Capobianco a new trial based on this recess in jury deliberations.”

Records show that Capobianco, 30, is incarcerated at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz.

Attorney Gerald Johnson, who represented Capobianco in his appeal, said he would seek state Supreme Court review of the appeals court decision.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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