Pada could face
20 years instead of
life in sons beating
The mother is found guiltyBy Debra Barayuga
but the conviction may be
dropped to attempted
Convicted child abuser Kimberly Pada could face a 20-year sentence instead of life imprisonment for beating and shaking her 4-year-old son in August 1997, leaving him comatose.
After nearly two days of deliberations, a Circuit Court jury yesterday found Pada, 29, of Kailua, guilty of second-degree attempted murder for abusing her son Reubyne Buentipo Jr., but a technicality may result in an attempted manslaughter conviction.
They also found her guilty of two counts of abuse of a household member, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison.
On the attempted murder conviction, Pada would have automatically received a life term with a mandatory minimum of 15 years.
Before jurors began deliberating, Circuit Judge John Lim posed a question to them: Had the prosecution met its burden of proving Pada was not under extreme mental and emotional disturbance? To sustain a guilty verdict, they would have had to be unanimous in answering yes. They were not unanimous and answered no.
Tiffany Kapoi, jury forewoman, told KITV afterward that jurors thought they had convicted Pada of attempted murder. And while the additional question posed by the court was confusing, they did not believe it was key to the case.
Deputy public defender Helen Wong said the jury's "no" response basically reclassified their verdict of attempted murder to attempted manslaughter. She could now face 20 years with a mandatory minimum of six years and eight months.
The court, however, can still sentence her to a life term if the state can prove that she is a danger to the community, Deputy Prosecutor Dan Oyasato said. Pada cannot qualify for probation because the offense she was convicted of involved a child under 8 years old.
Oyasato, who called the court's decision an "aberration," said he will seek a life term for Pada at her sentencing June 8.
"A lot of people have let Reubyne Jr. down, and I think the court let Reubyne down this time," he said. "By essentially taking the verdict away from the jury, the court has left this little child without true closure to his life and I don't think the jury knew what it did."
Reubyne Jr., now 5, remains in a coma at a convalescent home. He shows no indication of being able to see or hear, but he can feel pain, Oyasato said.
At least 10 jurors withstood questioning by Oyasato for more than an hour after they reached their verdict.
Oyasato did not reveal what he discussed with jurors because it was not a matter of public record. However, "based on what they have told me, I intend to make a record," he said.
During trial, Pada did not deny that she abused her son.
But one doctor testified that she suffered from a personality disorder characterized by uncontrollable rage, impulsiveness and feelings of loneliness stemming from past abuse, exacerbated by her use of crystal methamphetamine.
While Child Protective Services may have been negligent for returning Reubyne Jr. to his mother, it wasn't the agency that caused the boy's injuries and put him where he is today, Oyasato said. "Kimberly Pada did."
Wong said Child Protective Services has been unfairly "pilloried" for the way it handled the Reubyne Buentipo Jr. case.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said this is the first time he can recall a judge has departed from Hawaii's standard jury instructions.
His office is reviewing the options available, including petitioning the court to contact and speak to the jurors.