Judge declares mistrial in record-tampering case
Former HPD worker Sharon Black will be tried again in March
A Circuit Court judge declared a mistrial in the records theft case against Honolulu Police Department outreach worker Sharon Black yesterday after a jury could not reach a unanimous decision.
Circuit Judge Richard Perkins set a retrial on the charges the week of March 27. The jury had been deliberating for 2 1/2 days.
Black, 47, a longtime advocate for the homeless and mentally ill, was indicted in August for tampering with government records, unauthorized computer access and fourth-degree theft. She was accused of removing from the city Medical Examiners Office highly confidential records on suicides that she had copied, and failing to return the copies.
Black, who obtained permission from the Medical Examiner to do research on suicides, maintained she had permission to print copies of records as she has had in the past and that it was all a misunderstanding. She said she returned the copies she printed after she was notified she did not have permission from the chief medical examiner.
But Medical Examiner staff testified that Black was specifically told that she could not print copies and that the copies she brought back the next day were not the originals. And Black's superiors at the Police Department said they did not authorize her to do the research.
Black maintained she thought she could not print from the particular computer she was allowed to use over a four-day period because she thought the computer could not print. On the fifth day of her research, she was allowed to use a computer in another office that was hooked up to a printer and printed out copies with the help of office staff.
Deputy public defender Thomas Otake said Black is pleased that the prosecution was unable to secure convictions on each of the three counts.
"She is innocent of all three counts, and we look forward to continuing fighting these charges," he said.
Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter declined comment on the verdict, noting that the case has been set for a retrial.