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HSC Expands Deferrals to Offenses Outside the Penal Code

State v. Medeiros (HSC December 20, 2019) Background. Kaohulani Medeiros was charged with place to keep unloaded firearms, place to keep ammunition, a hunting hours violation, and prohibited use of an artificial light—the latter two were violations of HAR § 13-123-6 and 7. Medeiros pleaded not guilty and moved to suppress the evidence. At the hearing, DLNR officers testified that they were on patrol between Kaupo and Ulupalakua at night on the leeward side of Haleakala. They stopped at a vista and saw a gray Toyota pickup truck pass by and started to see the “panning of a light.” The light was coming from the driver’s side and slowly moved down the highway. This, the officers testified, was commonly used to track and hunt animals like deer on the side of the road. The officers tried to pursue the truck, but lost sight of it.
Minutes later a truck similar to the one they observed drove past them in the opposite direction. The officers stopped the truck. Medeiros was in the vehicle wearin…

Questionable Peremptory Challenges, Rogue Jurors, and Other Misconducts

Background. Joseph Pitts was indicted for attempted murder in the 2d degree. Pitts and his friend Jason Brown were driving to the airport to pick up a mutual friend. On the way to the airport, Brown asked Pitts to stop to see a person named “Niki” who lived under a tree. They stopped at the location and both got out of the car. Brown lit a cigarette and was hit. Brown testified he saw Pitts but was frantic. He was stabbed in the neck and arms. He ran down the hill to a guard in a shack and announced “a black guy up there . . . just stabbed me.” He was positive Pitts was his assailant.
Prior to trial, Pitts moved to exclude evidence that Pitts accused Brown of raping or sleeping with his girlfriend and that he demanded Brown apologize to him. The prosecution noted that there was no evidence of Pitts’ suspicions before Brown was stabbed. The circuit court, presided by the Hon. Judge Rom Trader, granted the motion.
During jury selection, a potential juror expressed herself about the fairne…

Removing Life Support Might be an Intervening Cause to Murder, but not a Defense

State v. Abella (HSC December 17, 2019) Background. Michael Abella was indicted for murder in the second degree. At trial the prosecution presented evidence that on a night in July 2014, at the corner of Smith and Pauahi Streets in Chinatown Abella stood over Shelton Higa and was violently kicking and punching him. A group of people intervened and stopped him. Abella left the area. The police soon intervened. Higa was conscious and filled out some paperwork. The police testified that they could smell the odor of alcohol on Higa’s breath. The medics also arrived and checked him out. He appeared stable and refused a ride in the ambulance to the hospital. About an hour later the ambulance returned to the scene. Higa was rolling around on the ground screaming and yelling. He was transported to Queen’s, where he was combative, agitated, and had “significantly high” blood pressure. He fell unconscious and remained in a coma. Treating physicians testified and concluded that Higa had suffered …

Linking your case to Notorious Murders is Prosecutorial Misconduct

State v. Udo (HSC December 16, 2019) Background. During the early morning hours in July 2014, Sandra Wollaston was asleep with other folks on the sidewalk in front of 1150 Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu. Udo was walking her dog along Bishop Street and started to slam the dog against a wall. Wollaston woke up and confronted Udo. They got into a fight. Wollaston tripped and fell to the ground. Udo stood over her and kicked and stomped on her head multiple times. Udo walked away. The police and medics arrived. Wollaston was pronounced dead. Udo was tried for murder in the second degree.
At trial, the prosecution called Dr. Christopher Happy, the chief medical examiner for Honolulu. Dr. Happy performed an autopsy on Wollaston and testified about the extensive injuries he observed on her body. The defense’s sole witness was Dr. James Navin. He testified as an expert in clinical pathology and had testified for the defense in more than 100 cases. He reviewed relevant medical records and o…

HSC Invalidates Warrant that Fails to Identify the Ohana Unit at a Single Residence

State v. Rodrigues (HSC December 13, 2019) Background. Big Island police officers submitted an affidavit for a search warrant to the district court. Officer Marco Segobia was the affiant. Officer Segobia averred that he received information from a confidential informant that Rodney Rodrigues, Jr. had sold crystal methamphetamine multiple times. Officer Segobia stated that he directed the CI to arrange a drug deal with Rodrigues and claimed that the CI performed a controlled purchase of methamphetamine from Rodrigues’s residence at the corner of Konalani Street and Puuhalo Street in Kailua-Kona. The residence was described as a two-story light colored wood siding structure with a white colored roof. Officer Segobia maintained surveillance from outside as the CI went into he residence and came out with crystal methamphetamine. The affidavit requested a search of the following space:
A residence located within the County and State of Hawai‘i and within the District of Kona. Your affiant de…

The Prosecution is on the Hook to Bring You Back from the Mainland for Trial

State v. Hernane (HSC December 12, 2019) Background. Charly Hernane was indicted for murdering his mother, found guilty by a jury, sentenced to prison for life, and appealed. The ICA vacated the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. The prosecution applied for a writ of certiorari, but the HSC rejected its application on March 23, 2016.
On remand, the circuit court presided by Hon. Judge Rom A. Trader held a pretrial conference in April. Hernane was being held in a private prison in Arizona. At another pretrial conference on May 3, 2016, Hernane was still not present and counsel informed the court that he was still in Arizona. The prosecution informed the circuit court that it requested the Department of Public Safety to transport Hernane back to Honolulu, but that would not happen until July. Over Hernane’s objection, the circuit court set trial to begin on August 1, 2016. Hernane came back to Hawaii on July 19, 2016—118 days after the prosecution’s writ of certiorari was rej…

Testifying at the Suppression Hearing does not Constitute a Waiver of the Right to Remain Silent at Trial—Even in District Court

State v. Chang (HSC June 28, 2019) Background. David Yen Hoy Chang was charged with driving while under the influence of an intoxicant. He pleaded not guilty and appeared in the district court. There, the district court was informed that the hearing on the motion to suppress would be consolidated with a bench trial.
The district court began with the motion to suppress. Honolulu Police Department Officer Jared Spiker testified that he pulled Chang over for driving at little after one in the morning without his headlights on and make an unlawful left turn. When he talked to Chang he noticed the odor of alcohol on his breath and saw that his eyes were red, watery, and glassy. His face was flushed; speech slurred. Officer Spiker asked for Chang’s driver’s license, registration, and insurance, which were produced without difficulty or delay. Officer Spiker informed Chang he was pulled over for driving infractions and invited him to participate in standardized field sobriety tests. Chang got …