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Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Appellate ruling
clouds killer’s

At issue are minimum prison
terms of 100 years

By Debra Barayuga

The attorney for Samuel Cooper Jr., convicted of murdering a Honolulu Symphony volunteer in August 1999, will ask the Hawaii Paroling Authority that he spend no more than 20 years before he is eligible for parole.

The attorney, deputy public defender Ronette Kawakami, said she is also looking at a recent appellate court ruling that may have some impact on the minimum term her client received in another murder for which he was sentenced earlier.

At his sentencing yesterday, Cooper, 35, received a life term with the possibility of parole, with a mandatory minimum of 20 years as a repeat offender for murdering Fred Cramer in May 1999.

It will be up to the parole board to decide how long he will serve.

Under the plea agreement, that term will be served concurrently with the 100 years Cooper received last year from the parole board for the August 1999 murder of Waikiki video store clerk Keith Miyashiro, Kawakami said.

A recent ruling by newly appointed appeals Judge Dan Foley saying the parole board cannot set an inmate's minimum term equal to his or her maximum sentence has raised some questions about the 100 years her client received for the Miyashiro murder, she said.

According to her interpretation, even if the Supreme Court says that "maxing" someone out by giving him a mandatory minimum that is equal to the maximum sentence is not allowable, the parole board still has the discretion to repeatedly deny a defendant parole.

Giving Cooper a minimum term of 100 years gives him no meaningful opportunity for rehabilitation, she said. The 100 years becomes a "life without parole" sentence, she said.

An attorney for a defendant who also received a 100-year minimum term from the parole board agrees and in December filed a notice of appeal based on the appellate ruling.

Monte Louis Young was recently resentenced to life with parole for bludgeoning another man to death with a claw hammer in an unprovoked attack at the Manoa Burger King.

Giving his client 100 years essentially means Young will die in prison, said attorney Michael Ostendorp.

Young was previously facing life without parole because of a trial judge's ruling that Young's actions fell under a statute governing crimes that are "especially heinous and depraved."

The Hawaii Supreme Court, however, ruled that there wasn't enough evidence indicating that the victim, Paul Ulbrich, suffered unnecessarily in the sudden attack and sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing.

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