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Showing posts from February, 2014

County's Ordinance for Low Priority Enforcement of Pot Preempted by State Law

Ruggles v. Yayong (ICA February 7, 2014) Background. The voters on the Big Island passed an initiative to make the enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest enforcement priority in the county. The law required law enforcement activities related to drug offenses for adults to be higher than cannabis possession and cultivation of a single case involving twenty-four or fewer plants when intended for adult personal use. The law also prohibited the chief of police and the police commissioner from working with federal law enforcement agencies and prohibited the County Council from authorizing the acceptance of funds to investigate, cite, arrest, prosecute the lowest law enforcement priority policy. A group of concerned citizens on the Big Island brought a lawsuit against county officials alleging that the officials failed or refused to enforce this new law. The County responded by dismissing the case. The circuit court dismissed it on the grounds that the Hawaii Penal Code superseded the new …

Landing on Kahoolawe is not a Strict Liability Offense

State v. Armitage et al. (HSC January 28, 2014) Background. Nelson Armitage, Russell Kahookele, and Henry Noa were charged by complaint of violating Haw. Admin. Regulation (HAR) § 13-261-10, the offense of entering into the Kahoolawe Island Reserve. The complaints read as follows:
That on or about the 31st day of July, 2006 . . . [the defendants] did enter or attempt to enter into, or remain within the Kahoolawe Island Reserve without being specifically authorized to do so by the commission or its authorized representative, thereby committing the offense of Entrance Into the Reserve, in violation of [HAR § 13-261-10].
The Defendants pleaded not guilty and their cases were consolidated. In their motion to dismiss, they challenged the constitutionality of the regulations and the prosecution itself. The Defendants argued, inter alia, that they had a constitutional right to go onto Kahoolawe in furtherance of traditional Native Hawaiian practices, founding an indigenous nation, and to practi…

HSC Gets Serious About Waiving Trial Rights

State v. Baker (HSC January 27, 2014) Background. Kaolino Richard Baker was charged with a single count of abuse of family or household member. HRS § 709-909. The incident involved his ex-girlfriend. At a pretrial hearing, Baker’s lawyer said that he signed a “waiver of jury trial” form. The form stated that Baker had a series of numbered paragraphs all of which were initialed except for the one stating that he was “entering this waiver of my own free will after careful consideration. No promises or threats have been made to me to induce me to waive my right to a jury trial.” He did, however, sign the form and it was certified by counsel that counsel went over all of the contents of the form and that counsel believed that it was signed voluntarily and intelligently. The family court conducted a colloquy, but failed to ask Baker about whether his decision to waive the right to a jury trial was voluntary. After the colloquy, Baker signed the form a second time certifying that the judge q…

Right to Counsel can be Revived After Verdict

State v. Pitts (HSC January 22, 2014) Background. Joseph Pitts was charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his close friend. After going through three court-appointed attorneys, trial began. Just after opening statements, Pitts told the trial court that he wanted to represent himself. His lawyer said that Pitts believed “he knows the case better than [his lawyer] and that the truth will set him free.” The trial court ordered Pitts to consider it over the weekend. When trial resumed on Monday, Pitts said that he will put his stubbornness aside and keep his lawyer for trial. In the middle of the prosecution’s case, Pitts said he wanted to fire his lawyer. The circuit court gave him a day to think about his decision and then had a colloquy about the waiver of his counsel. The trial court then kept his lawyer as a standby counsel and Pitts represented himself. Trial resumed and this time Pitts said he wanted his lawyer back. His lawyer said that there may be a conflict at this…

Scientific Certainty is not Required Before Admitting Expert Opinion in Murder Trial

State v. DeLeon (HSC January 15, 2014) Background. Phillip DeLeon was indicted with inter alia the murder of Shawn Powell and the attempted murder of Powell’s friend, Justin Gamboa after a fight in a nightclub. Before trial, the prosecution filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence that Powell had cocaine in his system at the time of the shooting. DeLeon opposed the motion on the grounds that it was relevant and went to the heart of his self-defense claim. DeLeon also noted that he had retained Dr. Clifford G. Wong a toxicologist at Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii. DeLeon proffered that Dr. Wong would testify about whether Powell was under the influence of the cocaine and needed evidence of its existence in his system introduced at trial. The trial court deferred the matter and would wait for an HRE Rule 104 hearing at trial. The trial court noted that it was concerned about “[q]uestionable relevancy and materiality will just create undue confusion.”
Right before opening stat…