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HSC strikes down proof-of-compliance hearings for defendants who aren’t on probation and haven’t defaulted

  State v. Fay (HSC June 17, 2024) Background. Melissa Fay crashed her car into a tree and was charged with traffic offenses in the district court. She pleaded no contest to driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving without insurance, and the amended charge of criminal property damage in the fourth degree. She also agreed to pay restitution. Kahului Auto Sales, Inc., owned the car and made a restitution claim. The Judiciary’s Monetary Restitution Program recommended that Fay pay $6,504. The parties agreed to the amount and the district court issued an order for restitution in that amount at a rate of $50.00 per month.   The district court with the Hon. Judge Lauren Akitake presiding ordered Fay to return to court in six months if the amount was not paid off. The court told Fay that the hearings would be ongoing until it was paid off. Fay objected, but the hearing was set. Fay appealed. The ICA affirmed. Fay petitioned for further review.   The statutory procedure

A divided jury can still be unanimous (sometimes)

  State v. Tran (HSC June 4, 2024) Background. In 2006, the Hawai'i Constitution was amended to get around the ruling in State v. Arceo , 84 Hawai'i 1, 928 P.2d 843 (1996):   In continuous sexual assault crimes against minors younger than fourteen years of age, the legislature may define: 1. What behavior constitutes a continuing course of conduct; and 2. What constitutes the jury unanimity that is required for a conviction.   Haw. Const. Art. I, Sec. 25. With that the Legislature passed HRS § 707-733.6. The conduct element requires proof of “three or more acts of sexual penetration or sexual contact with a minor over a period of time, while the minor is under the age of fourteen years.” HRS § 707-733.6(1)(b). The jury need not be unanimous as to which of the three:   To convict under this section, the trier of fact, if a jury, need unanimously agree only that the requisite number of acts have occurred; the jury need not agree on which acts constitute the req

Without expert testimony, prosecutors cannot say a witness looked "traumatized"

  State v. Browder (HSC June 5, 2024) Background. Zeth Browder was charged with sexual assault in the first degree, sexual assault in the third degree, burglary, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence. The prosecution presented evidence that Browder sexually assaulted an elderly woman in her tent at a county park.   During her closing argument, the prosecutor—DPA Kristen Yamamoto—told the jury that the complaining witness’s testimony was credible and akin to a traumatized person:   [U]ltimately this case comes to one question. Is [the complaining witness] believable? . . . . [H]er demeanor, her candor, her lack of motive and is what she says makes sense, then the State submits that, yes, the answer to this question is that [the complaining witness] is believable. . . . . . . . She’s 80 years old. She was nervous, shaking on the witness stand. She was emotional and crying. She was scared. She told you she was scared that morning. She was scared at the hospital. She w

ICA orders new trial where prosecutor tells jury it’s blood without proving it’s blood; upholds denial of pretrial defense motions.

  State v. Willis (ICA April 30, 2024) Background. Erik Willis was indicted for attempted murder in the second degree. This case goes back to 2020, when a 17-year-old girl was found on a Kahala Beach with stab wounds to her stomach. She survived. The police found surveillance footage showing that before she was found a “fair-skinned man, with dark curly hair, a blue disposable face mask, a clean white t-shirt, tan pants, and dark colored shoes with white striping on the side” was near the area. Footage from a bus showed the man getting on the bus and heading to the Kahala beach he got out off the bus approximately twenty minutes before the woman was found. More footage showed that at around the time the woman was found the man was running from the beach to a sink and appeared to “wash himself off.” At around 4 p.m., the man is seen with a soiled t-shirt sitting on the bus. HPD officer Matthew Motas watched the footage and identified the man as Willis.           The police arrested

If you're going to set bail, it has to be reasonable and can't be excessive so $3.3 million won't work

  State v. Carter (ICA March 6, 2024) Background. Samuel Carter was indicted for attempted murder in the second degree and firearms offenses. He was held in jail without bail. About four months later, Carter filed a motion for supervised release or, in the alternative, a motion to set bail. Carter argued that there had been no findings supporting the decision to hold him without bail. The prosecution opposed and attached a letter to the Circuit Court noting that there had been no bail report because of the no-bail determination. According to the pretrial services intake center, it would not assess Carter’s eligibility for supervised release unless and until the court sets bail first.   At the hearing on the motion, Carter asked that bail be set at $100,000. The prosecution objected and argued that there was a rebuttable presumption of detention, Carter posed a danger to the community, and there was a flight risk. The prosecution did maintain that even though he could be held wit

Exchanging text messages did not require Miranda warnings because nobody was “in custody.”

  State v. James (HSC January 3, 2024) Background. After interviewing a complaining witness, detectives at the Kauai Police Department suspected Dylan James committed sexual assault. The police had the CW contact James to talk about it. The CW tried calling twice and James did not pick up. Then the CW texted him. In the text messages, James admitted to having “rough” sex and texted that “when you were screaming and crawling away from the lifeguard tower . . . couldn[‘]t tell if you were serious[.]” James was indicted with five counts of sexual assault in the first degree.   James filed a motion to suppress his statements in the text messages on the grounds that the police used the CW as an agent and failed to apprise James of his constitutional right to remain silent and his right to counsel. The circuit court, with the Hon. Judge Randal Valenciano presiding, granted the motion. The circuit court found that James was “in custody” for Miranda purposes because probable cause had d