Sentencing law reaches to 2000
Punishments can be revisited years later, an appeals court rules
State courts can resentence convicted felons to extended prison terms under a new law enacted just last year for cases dating to the year 2000, according to a state appeals court ruling issued last week.
The ruling by the state Intermediate Court of Appeals upholds the constitutionality of Act 1, which brings Hawaii sentencing statutes in line with recent U.S. Supreme Court orders and rulings.
The effective date of the law is retroactive to 2000, when the high court issued a ruling in a New Jersey case.
The new law requires juries to determine whether a convicted felon is eligible for a prison term longer than what is normally allowed, based on the danger he poses to the public. Previously, judges made that determination.
The appellate court ruling sends the case of Walter Lee Cutsinger back to Circuit Court for resentencing under the new law. A state judge sentenced Cutsinger in 2004 to 10 years in prison for second-degree burglary -- double the normal maximum sentence for the crime.
Cutsinger's lawyer, Glenn Choy, said he will appeal the appellate court ruling to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
"We're happy with the ICA ruling, and it is our hope that the Supreme Court will see the issue similarly," said state Attorney General Mark Bennett.
Oral arguments are scheduled for today.
Public Defender Jack Tonaki said there already is a case that raises the same or similar issues pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court.