Thursday, March 20, 1997

Juveniles charged
with serious crimes

MANY questions have arisen about the death of an off-duty police officer allegedly thrown 33 feet from the H-1 freeway viaduct last October near Honolulu Airport. The public may never learn the answers, because Gabriel Kealoha, charged with manslaughter, will be tried behind closed doors as a juvenile. Kealoha's case should prompt the state Legislature to remove the cloak of secrecy in the adjudication of charges of serious crimes against juveniles.

Hawaii judges are given discretion to transfer a juvenile defendant to adult court after considering the seriousness of the crime, the juvenile's background and chances of rehabilitation and the public's protection. Family Court Judge Michael Town apparently decided the 18-year-old Kealoha's personal attributes overshadowed the seriousness of the crime. We say apparently, because the hearing at which the judge announced his ruling was also closed to the public.

Peter Carlisle won election to the city prosecutor's office last year calling for an overhaul of what he calls an "antiquated, inadequate and arbitrary" system of determining whether teen-agers should be tried as juveniles or adults. In the last fiscal year, courts granted 10 of 19 requests by prosecutors to try juveniles on felony charges, six of 12 for Class A felonies, such as manslaughter.

Town's ruling greatly affects the potential punishment Kealoha would face if found responsible for Sgt. Arthur Miller's death. If determined responsible in Family Court, Kealoha would face detention in a youth facility until he turns 19 next Feb. 1 and probation for an additional year -- at most a minimal sentence. A manslaughter sentence in adult court can range from probation to 20 years in prison. It would have been more appropriate to try Kealoha as an adult, even if he received probation.

Laws governing adult court provide for special treatment of juveniles convicted of serious crimes. A person aged 16 to 22 who is convicted of a felony but has no previous criminal record may qualify for sentencing and rehabilitative treatment "appropriate to the young adult defendant's needs."

This is a case where judicial discretion was exercised against the public interest. Legislation is needed to prevent future instances of the public being denied access to trials of juveniles dealing with serious crimes.

Criticism of Inouye

THEY'RE at it again. Those demon waste-fighters are blaming Daniel Inouye for what they call special-interest, "pork barrel" federal spending in Hawaii. It's a bad rap.

Hawaii's senior senator has been remarkably effective in steering federal money to his state. When he retires, Hawaii will lose his seniority and clout in Congress and could see a big dropoff in federal funding.

Papua New Guinea

A government plan to employ mercenary troops against rebels on Bougainville island has backfired on the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Julius Chan. The commander of the army demanded that Chan resign over the issue. The prime minister in response fired the army chief, but violent protests erupted in the capital of Port Moresby.

A nasty little war threatens to bring down the government of Papua New Guinea.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Community]
[Info] [Letter to Editor] [Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin