Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the circuit court’s judgment, guilty conviction, and sentence, holding that Defendant’s extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole violated the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 1-3. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree. Defendant was sentenced to an extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-661 and 706-662(5). On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the State and its witnesses to refer to Edith Skinner as the “victim” at trial; (2) the circuit court did not err in excluding certain statements as hearsay; (3) the circuit court did not err by refusing Defendant’s proposed jury instructions for lesser included offenses; (4) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct; and (5) Defendant’s sentence was an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law because section 706-661 did not provide for a life sentence without the possibility of parole in 1989, when the offense in this case took place. View "State v. Austin " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held in this criminal case that pursuant to its recent decision in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018), Petitioner was entitled to relief under Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP) Rule 40. Petitioner was found guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual assault and eight counts of third-degree sexual assault. The court sentenced Petitioner to extended terms of imprisonment under the multiple offender statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-662(4)(a). In his amended Rule 40 petition, Petitioner argued that his extended term sentences were “illegal sentences” under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 446 (2000). The Supreme Court agreed, holding that because the findings of fact in support of imposing extended terms were made by the judge, rather than a jury, Petitioner’s extended term sentences were imposed in an illegal manner. View "Preble v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that Appellant’s extended term sentence was imposed in an illegal manner and, accordingly, vacated the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s motion for correction of illegal sentence with regard to the extended term sentence. A judge, and not a jury, determined in 2004 that Appellant’s extended term sentence was necessary for the protection of the public, which was contrary to the Supreme Court’s holding in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018). Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s motion for correction of illegal sentence as to the extended term sentence. View "Marks v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether the Intermediate Court of Appeals’ (ICA) judgment on appeal, entered pursuant to its memorandum opinion affirming the circuit court’s order granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief, was proper. In this case, a judge, rather than a jury, determined in 2004 that Appellant’s extended term sentence was necessary for the protection of the public, which was contrary to the Supreme Court’s holding in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018). Therefore, the Court concluded that Appellant’s extended term sentence was imposed in an illegal manner. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated in part the ICA’s judgment on appeal as to the extended term sentence, vacated in part the circuit court’s order as to the extended term sentence, and remanded this case for further proceedings. As to the other issues discussed in the ICA’s memorandum opinion and judgment on appeal were not before the Court, the Court did not disturb the ICA’s conclusions as to those other issues. View "Batalona v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court refusing to accept Tracy Souza’s offer to stipulate to his prior felony conviction, which constituted an element of an offense with which he was charged. Souza was charged by felony information with place to keep unloaded firearms other than pistols and revolvers and ownership or possession prohibited of any firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of certain crimes. Following jury selection, Souza stipulated to his prior felony conviction. The jury found Souza guilty of both charged offenses. On appeal, Souza maintained that he was forced to accept the State’s proposed stipulation, which contained facts that were not elements of the offense and were unduly prejudicial. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the manner in which the circuit court addressed Souza’s offer to stipulate to the prior conviction element was inconsistent with this Court’s decision in State v. Murray, 169 P.3d 955 (Haw. 2007), and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Souza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for unlawful imprisonment in the second degree and abuse of family or household members, holding that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to an unwarranted attack on the person character of defense counsel and, by extension, Defendant, and the misconduct warranted vacating Defendant’s convictions. At issue on appeal was the propriety of the prosecutor’s remarks suggesting that opposing counsel attempted to induce the complaining witness to give false testimony during cross-examination. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comment contributed to Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the nature of the prosecution’s remarks during closing argument, the lack of any effective curative instruction, and the relative weight of the evidence, considered collectively, made clear that there was a reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to Defendant’s convictions; and (2) the improper remarks did not clearly deny Defendant a fair trial, and therefore, the protections of double jeopardy were not implicated. View "State v. Underwood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reiterated its holding in State v. Murray, 169 P.3d 955, 964 (2007), that a trial court must engage a defendant in an on-the-record colloquy to ensure the defendant is intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily relinquishing the right to have all elements of a charged criminal offense proven beyond a reasonable doubt before the court may accept the defendant’s admission of an element of the crime. Further, the Court declined to establish an exception to the colloquy requirement when a stipulation is based on trial strategy or time constraints. Defendant was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII). Defendant stipulated to the fact that her blood was drawn and that the blood test results showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.1056 grams of alcohol per hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. The district court found Defendant guilty of OVUII. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s OVUII conviction, holding that the district court plainly erred in failing to engage Defendant in an on-the-record colloquy regarding the stipulation to the blood test results, as required by Murray, and erred in accepting the stipulation as evidence proving that Defendant’s BAC was .08 or more grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. View "State v. Ui" on Justia Law

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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