Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

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During the trial of State v. Deedy and on the fifth day of jury deliberations, the circuit court conducted five separate court proceedings that were not open to the public. The transcripts from the court sessions were subsequently sealed, and a mistrial was declared as a result of a deadlocked jury. Petitioners, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, filed petitions for writs of prohibition and mandamus seeking to prohibit the circuit court from sealing any portion of the trial transcript and to prohibit the court from closing the courtroom in a similar manner in a re-trial of State v. Deedy and in any other criminal proceeding. On remand, the circuit court unsealed the transcript. The Supreme Court (1) dismissed the writ of prohibition as moot because the circuit court already unsealed the transcript of the closed proceedings; (2) denied the writ of mandamus as unnecessary in light of the directive of this opinion; and (3) adopted procedures that a court is required to follow before denying public access to a transcript of a closed proceeding. View "Oahu Publ'ns, Inc. v. Hon. Karen Ahn" on Justia Law

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Appellant, an inmate in custody, filed a petition post-conviction relief under Haw. R. Penal P. 40, alleging that he was incompetent to stand trial, his trial counsel and appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance, and prosecutorial misconduct. The circuit court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant’s appeal was without merit where Appellant failed to establish a colorable claim that (1) he was incompetent to stand trial; (2) his appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to appeal the issue of Appellant’s alleged incompetence to stand trial; (3) his trial counsel was ineffective; and (4) the prosecutor committed misconduct that would warrant relief under Rule 40. View "Fanelli v. State " on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with murder in the second degree. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of reckless manslaughter. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred when it declined to instruct the jury on the offense of assault in the first degree as an included offense of the charge of murder in the second degree. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s and circuit court’s judgments, holding (1) assault in the first degree is an included offense of murder in the second degree; and (2) the circuit court erred by failing to instruct the jury upon the included offense of assault in the first degree. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Kaeo" on Justia Law

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The State filed a misdemeanor complaint against Defendant charging him with one count of abuse of a family or household member (domestic abuse). The complaint stated that Defendant engaged in the abuse for more than two years “as a continuing course of conduct.” The circuit court dismissed the State’s complaint without prejudice, concluding that domestic abuse cannot be charged on a continuous conduct theory. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) reversed, determining that, in some cases, domestic abuse may be charged as a continuous offense. The Supreme Court reversed the ICA’s judgment and affirmed the circuit court’s order dismissing the State’s complaint, holding that an alleged two-year period of domestic abuse cannot be charged on a continuing course of conduct theory. View "State v. Decoite" on Justia Law

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After a trial, Defendant was convicted of operating a vehicle after license and privilege have been suspended or revoked for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. On appeal, the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the district court’s judgment, determining that the charge against Defendant was defective for failing to allege the requisite state of mind, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case without prejudice. Defendant filed an application for writ of certiorari, contending that the ICA gravely erred in failing to address his arguments that insufficient evidence sustained the conviction and that double jeopardy precluded retrial. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) a reviewing court is required to address an express claim of insufficiency of the evidence prior to remaining for a new trial based on a defective charge; but (2) substantial evidence supported the conviction in this case, and therefore, double jeopardy did not preclude a retrial. View "State v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Defendant John Walton and his codefendant, Courage Lee Elkshoulder, were indicted for attempted murder in the second degree and robbery in the first degree. The circuit court consolidated Walton’s and Elkshoulder’s trials and denied Walton’s and Elkshoulder’s motions for severance. During trial, Walton and Elkshoulder each argued that the other had stabbed the complaining witness. The jury found Walton guilty of both attempted murder and robbery but found Elkshoulder guilty only of assault and robbery. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Walton’s motion for severance, and, under the circumstances, Walton was prejudiced and denied a fair trial. View "State v. Walton" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of sexual assault in the fourth degree for allegedly fondling the breast of the complaining witness while she slept. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by admitting the testimony of a police detective, a veteran of the Sex Crimes Detail, that probable cause existed for arresting Defendant because the officer’s testimony invaded the province of the jury by bolstering the complaining witness’s credibility where the officer was imbued with “an aura of expertise” due to his experience. View "State v. Calara" on Justia Law

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William and Maryann Acker, a married couple, were involved in a string of crimes in California and Hawaii in 1978. In California, Maryann was convicted of Cesario Arauza’s murder. In Hawaii, William pleaded guilty to robbing Lawrence Hasker, and Maryann was found guilty of Hasker’s murder and other charges regarding the robbery of Joseph Leach. William later testified under oath in California that he was solely responsible for Hasker’s murder. In 2007, Maryann was granted a new trial in relation to the charge for Hasker’s murder and was again convicted of Hasker’s murder. Maryann challenged her retrial, claiming she was denied a fair trial for several reasons. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in ruling that defense counsel opened the door to evidence concerning Maryann’s convictions in California, but the error was harmless; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Maryann’s motion for mistrial; (3) the prosecution did not engage in misconduct; (4) the circuit court did not err in refusing to enforce a subpoena recalling William to testify in Maryann’s case; and (5) the circuit court’s jury instructions on murder and accomplice liability were not erroneous. View "State v. Acker" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of several drug-related offenses. The Hawaii Paroling Authority (HPA) fixed minimum terms of imprisonment and categorized Petitioner as a Level III offender. After the ICA reversed one of Petitioner’s convictions, the HPA reset Petitioner’s minimum terms to the same terms that had previously been imposed. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Haw. R. Penal P. 40. The petition was denied. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a second Rule 40 petition challenging his minimum term and his status as a Level III offender. The circuit court denied the second petition, concluding that Petitioner waived his claims for not including them in his first petition. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments, holding (1) because Petitioner presented evidence that did not receive notice that, on remand, the HPA reset his minimum term to the same minimum term in time for him to have raised the issue in his first petition, Petitioner’s second petition should not have been denied without a hearing on the basis that his claims had been waived; and (2) inasmuch as Petitioner’s offenses did not meet the prescribed criteria to classify Petitioner as a Level III offender, the HPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously. Remanded. View "Fagaragan v. State" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, the district court convicted Defendant of exceeding the speed limit, finding that the State met its burden of proof that Defendant’s vehicle was traveling sixty-five miles per area in an area where the speed limit was fifty miles per hour. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in failing to sustain Defendant’s foundation and hearsay objections to the admission of a speed reading from a police officer’s laser gun. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court committed error in admitting the speed into evidence because the State failed to lay an adequate foundation for the introduction of the laser gun reading. Remanded. View "State v. Amiral" on Justia Law