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