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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, holding that the record did not support a conclusion that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify at trial was voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly made, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the conviction, concluding that the district court’s end-of-trial Tachibana colloquy was adequate and that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify was validly made. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, holding (1) the Tachibana colloquy was deficient where the district court did not engage in a true colloquy with Defendant to ascertain her understanding of the stated constitutional principles and to ensure that Defendant’s decision not to testify was made with an understanding of these principles; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "State v. Celestine" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in failing to continue trial because of the unavailability of a defense witness. Defendant was found guilty of second degree robbery. On the first day of his trial, defendant moved to continue because the police officer who had arrested him and spoken with him shortly after the alleged robbery was unavailable to testify. The circuit court denied the motion. Following closing arguments, Defendant filed a motion for mistrial, which the circuit court denied. After he was found guilty, Defendant moved for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in denying Defendant’s motion because the police officer’s testimony was relevant and material testimony that benefitted Defendant; and (2) accordingly, Defendant’s right to compulsory process to obtain witnesses in his favor was violated. View "State v. Williander" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Hawaii’s extended term sentencing scheme was invalid based on the holding in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), because the sentencing scheme allowed a judge, rather than a jury, to determine facts that resulted in extended sentences. In the instant case, Appellant pled guilty to various offenses in multiple cases and was sentenced to extended term sentences. The sentences became final in 2003. In 2014, Appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his sentence was illegal because a judge, rather than a jury, found a relevant fact used to enhance his sentence in violation of Apprendi. The circuit court denied the petition. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court, holding that Appellant’s extended term sentences were imposed in an illegal manner. View "Flubacher v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) ruling that some of the grounds of Albert Batalona’s post-conviction petition raised colorable claims for relief and that the circuit court correctly denied the petition with regard to the remaining grounds, holding (1) the grounds of Batalona’s petition asserting that defense counsel’s failure to challenge the denial of Defendant’s request for a copy of discovery materials resulted in the impairment of his right to present a complete defense and adversely affected his waiver of the right to testify raised colorable claims for relief; and (2) the ICA properly denied a hearing with regard to the remaining grounds set forth in the petition except as to ground 18, which the Court dismissed with prejudice. With respect to the State’s certiorari application, the Court affirmed the ICA’s determination that the ground of Defendant’s petition asserting that defense counsel failed to exercise a good faith effort to obtain a robbery co-participant’s attendance at trial raised a colorable claim for relief. View "Batalona v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) ruling that some of the grounds of Albert Batalona’s post-conviction petition raised colorable claims for relief and that the circuit court correctly denied the petition with regard to the remaining grounds, holding (1) the grounds of Batalona’s petition asserting that defense counsel’s failure to challenge the denial of Defendant’s request for a copy of discovery materials resulted in the impairment of his right to present a complete defense and adversely affected his waiver of the right to testify raised colorable claims for relief; and (2) the ICA properly denied a hearing with regard to the remaining grounds set forth in the petition except as to ground 18, which the Court dismissed with prejudice. With respect to the State’s certiorari application, the Court affirmed the ICA’s determination that the ground of Defendant’s petition asserting that defense counsel failed to exercise a good faith effort to obtain a robbery co-participant’s attendance at trial raised a colorable claim for relief. View "Batalona v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The circuit court correctly ruled that this criminal case must be dismissed because Defendant’s Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure Rule 48 rights had been violated where the twenty-one day period between Defendant’s arraignment and the first setting of the waiver or demand of a jury trial hearing was not excludable pursuant to Rule 48(c)(1) or (c)(8). The circuit court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss his criminal charges with prejudice for violation of Rule 48. The intermediate court of appeals vacated the dismissal order, holding (1) a twenty-one day period between Defendant’s arraignment and the first setting of the waiver/demand hearing was excludable from Rule 48 calculations under subsections (c)(1) and (c)(8); and (2) while the case should not have been dismissed, the circuit court also erred in failing to consider the factors identified in State v. Estencion, 625 P.2d 1040 (1981) in dismissing the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Defendant’s Rule 48 rights were not violated under the circumstances of this case; and (2) upon remand, the circuit court must properly apply the Estencion factors to determine whether the case should be dismissed with or without prejudice. View "State v. Choy Foo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Because restitution is part of the “maximum penalty provided by law” and is a direct consequence of conviction, defendants must be appropriately advised and questioned in open court regarding their understanding of this possibility before a court can accept their guilty or no contest plea. In a plea agreement with the State, to which the circuit court agreed to be bound, Defendant agreed to plead guilty in three criminal cases, provided that he would be sentenced to certain terms of imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court violated the agreement by also sentencing him to pay restitution. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions without prejudice to him filing a Hawai’i Rule of Penal Procedure Rule 40 petition in the circuit court, holding (1) courts must advise defendants that restitution is a possible consequence of conviction before accepting their pleas; and (2) although the circuit court did not conduct a proper colloquy in Defendant’s case, Defendant never filed an appropriate motion in the circuit court. View "State v. Kealoha" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A purchaser of property that is subject to a mortgage to which the purchaser is not a party may challenge a foreclosing plaintiff’s entitlement to enforce the note. Karen Zakarian executed a promissory note secured by a mortgage executed on certain property. The mortgage was ultimately assigned to Wells Fargo. As a result of a separate foreclosure action, a court-appointed commissioner conveyed the property to Jonathan Behrendt. Wells Fargo filed a complaint seeking foreclosure of the mortgage and sale of the property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Wells Fargo, concluding that Wells Fargo was entitled to have the property sold free and clear of Behrendt’s claim. On appeal, Behrendt argued that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding Wells Fargo’s standing to sue and whether Wells Fargo was the holder of the note. In response, Wells Fargo argued that because Behrendt was not a party to the mortgage and the mortgage conferred no contractual rights or standing on Behrendt, Behrendt could not attack the foreclosure. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Behrendt may challenge the foreclosure; and (2) the evidence Wells Fargo presented regarding its entitlement to foreclose at the time the complaint was filed was not admissible on the grounds asserted. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Behrendt" on Justia Law

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The estate of a viable fetus can recover for loss of enjoyment of life - also known as “hedonic” - damages. Plaintiff, an inmate, alleged that the actions of correctional officers and the subsequent failure of medical personnel to provide her with treatment caused the stillbirth of her eight-month-old fetus, Briandalynne. Plaintiff sued Petitioners for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiff, awarding, in part, Briandalynne’s estate $250,000 for loss of enjoyment of life. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Briandalynne’s estate could maintain a survival action against Petitioners for hedonic damages; and (2) the record supported the damages award in this case. View "Castro v. Melchor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court vacated the intermediate court of appeal’s (ICA) order dismissing Appellant’s appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction and remanded this case to the ICA for further proceedings because the record did not establish that Appellant’s court-appointed counsel consulted with Appellant to determine whether he wished to appeal the judgment of conviction and probation sentence adjudging Appellant guilty of one count of theft in the second degree. The ICA determined that Appellant’s appeal, which was filed outside of the required statutory thirty-day period, did not fall within an exception to the requirement that the notice of appeal be timely filed. The Supreme Court held (1) pursuant to Maddox v. State, 407 P.3d 152, 161 (2017), Appellant was entitled, on his first appeal, to court-appointed counsel who “may not deprive him of his appeal by electing to forego compliance with procedural rules”; and (2) therefore, under Haw. R. App. P. 4(b), the ICA had jurisdiction to consider Appellant’s untimely appeal. View "State v. McDaniel " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law