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'Karen's Law' dies


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POSTED: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The daughter of a woman who was allegedly strangled by a teenager is frustrated that a bill to make it easier to try juveniles as adults when charged with first-degree murder has not been approved.

House Bill 819, dubbed “;Karen's Law”; in memory of Karen Ertell, failed to move Friday due to questions. Critics said proposed amendments would have lengthened—rather than shortened—the process to determine whether Family Court jurisdiction over juveniles ages 15 to 17 should be waived so they could be tried in adult court.

Ertell, 51, was raped and strangled in her Ewa Beach home in May 2007. Accused is her neighbor, Vernon P. Bartley, who was 15 at the time. Bartley, whose trial is set to begin next month, qualifies for first-degree murder because Ertell was scheduled to testify against him in a burglary case.

Rep. Kymberly Pine blamed state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, chairman of the Finance Committee, for failing to move the bill, saying he skipped several conference committee meetings before he made the decision Friday to defer the bill.

“;We're all in shock because he never did express his concerns, which could've been addressed,”; said Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point). She questioned how the system can be working if Ertell's family had to wait two years for Bartley to stand trial.

Fifteen months after Ertell's death, a judge waived Family Court jurisdiction over Bartley to have him tried as an adult.

Ertell's foster daughter, Malanie McLellan, echoed Pine's sentiment. “;It just seems very backward to me,”; she said.

Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) countered that he does not have final authority over that bill and that Pine is aware that his attendance is not required at committee meetings for a decision to be made. “;To mischaracterize and negligently mislead people is very, very disappointing,”; he said.

Oshiro said one of his concerns involved language that allowed a Circuit Court judge to send the juvenile back to Family Court if the juvenile's rehabilitation otherwise would be “;seriously impaired.”; An official from the prosecutor's office testified earlier that the provision would lead to “;additional litigation and delay.”;