Killer’s sentence will come from his peers
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For the first time in Hawaii, a state jury, not a judge, will decide whether to send a convicted murderer to prison for life without parole.
The same set of jurors who convicted Patrick Lorenzo, 33, of reckless manslaughter last month for killing off-duty deputy sheriff Daniel Browne-Sanchez, will convene tomorrow to decide the penalty phase in the first extended sentencing trial since the new law was passed last month.
Lorenzo faces life imprisonment with parole for Browne-Sanchez's murder, but prosecutors are asking that he receive an extended term of life without parole, the harshest penalty available under Hawaii law.
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Under a new law passed during the Legislature's special Superferry session, jurors -- not judges -- will decide whether to impose an extended prison sentence on a convicted defendant who poses a threat to the public.
The first case under the new law will be heard tomorrow when a jury will hear whether Patrick Lorenzo, 33, should receive an extended sentence of life without parole.
Lorenzo was convicted of reckless manslaughter last month for shooting and killing off-duty sheriff's deputy Daniel Browne-Sanchez on Feb. 10 at the Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge.
Because of the pending penalty phase hearing, prosecutors declined to comment.
To get an extended sentence under the new law, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it is necessary for the protection of the public.
Under the law, persistent lawbreakers, professional criminals or individuals deemed by the court to be dangerous, multiple offenders, offenders against the elderly, handicapped or minors; or hate crime offenders are subject to extended sentences.
The new law was passed in response to a ruling by U.S. Supreme Court in March that Hawaii's practice of extending sentences was unconstitutional because it left it up to the judge's discretion.
The high court overturned the extended sentence imposed on Miti Maugaotega, who was ordered to serve 11 life terms. One of those life terms was without parole for shooting Punchbowl resident Eric Kawamoto when the homeowner surprised Maugaotega as he was burglarizing his home. Kawamoto was critically wounded but survived.
The 10 other life terms stemmed from three other violent burglaries, including one in which Maugaotega raped a 55-year-old woman.
Defense attorney Walter Rodby is expected to argue in the Lorenzo case that life with parole is sufficient. Lorenzo was found guilty a week after the new law, which applies retroactively, was passed.
Defense lawyers say there might be potential problems.
"Starting a new policy in the middle of any legal proceeding is always problematic," said prominent Honolulu defense lawyer Brook Hart. "But I think the jury will perform its function without difficulty."
The fact that this jury convicted Lorenzo doesn't mean they will automatically find that an extended sentence is necessary, he noted.
The Office of the Public Defender had objected to the retroactive provision. "We felt it was questionable ... it will have to be litigated," said Public Defender John Tonaki.
At trial, the jury rejected a first-degree attempted murder charge stemming from Lorenzo's attempts to shoot at more than one individual. Had Lorenzo been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have automatically faced the statutory life term without parole.
First-degree murder is reserved for individuals who knowingly and intentionally cause the deaths of more than one person, a law enforcement officer, judge or a witness in a criminal prosecution or while incarcerated.
Lorenzo is serving a 30-year term for felony drug and DUI convictions. Prosecutors successfully argued for an extended sentence in that case, citing Lorenzo's history, including 27 arrests and five felony convictions.
Lorenzo was awaiting sentencing in that case when he entered the Osake Sushi Bar & Lounge after closing on Feb. 10 wearing a bullet-resistant vest and a ski mask. He threatened the remaining employees with a semiautomatic pistol equipped with a silencer.
He fired several shots, including one that missed the bar manager, then fired at Browne-Sanchez when the off-duty deputy sheriff approached him.
Lorenzo claimed he t did not mean to shoot anyone that night. He said he was forced to hold up the bar and send a message to the owners by two men to whom he owed drug money. He said the men threatened to harm him and his family if he didn't comply.