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Manibusan places his dead victim's past on trial, pleads not guilty

By Jacob Nakamura

Matthew Manibusan, through his attorney Jay Arriola, intends to show the jury in his trial for the manslaughter of Joshua Meno that Mr. Meno was a violent aggressor, who was high, when Mr. Manibusan shot him and left him to die in the streets of Dededo April 15.

"The victim has a reputation for being a violent, aggressive neighbor," Mr. Arriola told Judge Vernon Perez in a hearing today, where the judge set the trial to start with jury selection on August 24, and where Mr. Perez heard pre-trial motions. "The neighbors all identified the victim as an aggressor. The victim could have taken within an hour to several hours before the incident methamphetamine, according to the toxicology report."

Mr. Arriola made a motion to compel the government to turn over details of Mr. Meno's criminal history, including prior arrests and violations of probation orders.

"Any prior violence not charged or adjudicated are not relevant to pending action because they are too removed and too remote," prosecutor Richelle Canto told the court.

Mr. Arriola, referring to police reports that a 17-year-old male minor was allegedly "slashed in the neck" by Mr. Meno said, "This goes to my client's state of mind, and his fear of being harmed by the victim."

Castle Doctrine and the reason Manibusan no longer faces murder charges

Mr. Manibusan originally was charged with the murder of Mr. Meno. Prosecutors, however, brought additional information before the Grand Jury, and the jurors determined that probable cause only existed for the manslaughter charge, and not for murder. The defense has contended this is because of the Castle Doctrine.

"In an abundance of caution, prosecution instructed the second grand jury on self defense and castle doctrine, but we are not necessarily conceding that it is applicable in the case because victim did not enter the actual home of defendant," the Office of the Attorney General said, regarding comments Ms. Canto made about the applicability of the Castle Doctrine in this case.

"The defendant shot Meno in the lower right rib area after Meno and other individuals got into an altercation at the defendant’s house," the OAG stated in a news release July 29. "The defendant admitted to shooting Meno, but claimed he acted in self-defense, and showed police officers where the pistol was hidden in an abandoned school bus around his home. Manibusan was originally indicted in April 2021 for Murder, Aggravated Assault and other charges. Defense filed a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment alleging the first grand jury did not receive exculpatory evidence. While Prosecution disagrees with defense’s characterization of what constitutes exculpatory evidence, Prosecution presented additional evidence to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury evaluated the evidence and found that probable cause existed for the manslaughter charge, but not for murder."

Mr. Manibusan faces anywhere from five to 20 years in prison, if convicted of manslaughter.

The Dededo resident and former neighbor to Mr. Meno and his family is fighting the charge after he plead not guilty before the court today.

The trial will be lengthy, compared to others, signaling the significant entry of evidence and testimony from witnesses. Both the prosecution and the defense told Judge Perez their cases in chief will take anywhere from three to five days each, considering each day of trial will consume the entire day.

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