Tuesday, June 10, 1997

Facts in Kealoha case
shrouded in secrecy

THE parents of Gabriel Kealoha are seeking public support for his early release from incarceration for the death of an off-duty police officer, but their plea lacks substance in the absence of information about the circumstances of the death. The controversy is a reminder of an archaic system of conducting juvenile trials for serious crimes in secret.

Kealoha was 17 years old when he was involved in an altercation with 19-year police veteran Sgt. Arthur Miller on the H-1 freeway viaduct last October. He allegedly threw Miller 33 feet to his death from the viaduct. Miller's blood-alcohol content was .016, twice the level of the legal threshold for intoxication, but little more is known about the incident. Kealoha maintained he acted in self-defense, but Family Court Judge Daryl Choy found him guilty of the equivalent of manslaughter.

We favored trying Kealoha as an adult because of the need for the trial to be open to the public. Even defense attorney Hayden Aluli, who wanted Kealoha tried in Family Court because of the lesser potential punishment, appreciates the problems associated with closed proceedings. "The right to a public trial is so fundamental," he says.

The Kealoha case prompted the Legislature to enact a law opening up legal proceedings involving juveniles charged with serious crimes or repeat offenders. Kealoha entered the Hawaii Youth Correctional Center in April and is due to be released when he turns 19 next Feb. 2, but he is seeking release to attend a preparatory program at the University of Hawaii.

Aluli says he hopes his client will "tell his story" after being released, and Kealoha's mother says he plans to "go national with his story." That does not bode well, since "his story" apparently was rejected by the judge, and the public has no independent information with which to balance it.

Lenin's tomb

RUSSIANS are learning in their democratic infancy that serious societal pains will not keep a silly, polarizing issue from capturing politicians' fancy. In America, problems of street crime and poverty don't preclude politicians from occasionally calling for criminalization of burning the American flag. In Russia, struggling to convert to a market economy while combatting organized crime and corruption, the heated debate of the moment is over what to do about Lenin's tomb.

Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body, treated with a preservative annually, has lain prone in public view in a granite mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square. Russians have more pressing needs, and Yeltsin has more urgent matters deserving of his attention than whether to dismantle a tourist attraction.

Mental disabilities

BUSINESSES are concerned about a federal directive implementing a guideline banning discrimination against otherwise qualified workers with mental illness. Employers are directed to accommodate an employee's psychiatric disability, but discrimination lawsuits are inevitable.

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