Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

Two-thirds say judges too lenient

Some say they'd pay a higher tax to keep criminals behind bars

By Rod Ohira

NEARLY two out of three voters in Hawaii believe judges are too lenient when sentencing criminals, a Honolulu Star-Bulletin Poll has found.

"If they're convicted, let them serve the time," said respondent John Laughlin of Waikiki, a retired computer analyst. "I'd be willing to pay more taxes to keep criminals in prison."

Kapahulu resident Suzanne Iverson, a retired businesswoman, thinks judges should follow a simple criteria: "The punishment should fit the crime."

John Hurtado, a college student and Salt Lake resident, feels juveniles involved in violent crime should be sentenced as adults.

"If they do violent crime, like beat a guy to death, they should not get away with a slap on the wrist because of their age," he said.

The three were among the 63 percent of 629 registered voters who criticized judges' leniency. The poll by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Corporate attorney Carroll Taylor of Kaneohe is among the 28 percent who believe sentences handed down by judges have been appropriate.

As an example, Taylor pointed to Circuit Judge James Aiona's 1994 sentencing of Saofaiga Loa to a 160-year minimum term in prison for a brutal attack on two people at Magic Island.

"Judges have no bias in particular cases and hand down sentences that fit crimes," Taylor said.

The poll numbers are not surprising to Mike Broderick, administrative director the courts.

"I assume the public was not provided with sentencing statistics and asked to respond to them," Broderick said.

"Also, the public does not have all the information that judges have in making sentencing decisions.

"Public safety, rehabilitation, family and employment circumstances are factors taken into consideration," he added. "If the public had access to these additional sources of information, then, perhaps, the poll results may have been different."

Many, however, feel that judges are lenient because of prison overcrowding.

"If that's a reason, then it's up to the people to demand more jail space," said John Terry Monahan of Waimanalo.

"Sending inmates out of state is not a bad idea."

"Sentencing has improved but it's still too lenient," added Susan Mathewson of Kaimuki.

"I just want to feel safe, and if it means paying more taxes to keep a sex offender off the streets, then I wouldn't mind paying it."

A Star-Bulletin computer analysis of the poll found that responders who felt judges were lenient also tended to favor Peter Carlisle in the Honolulu prosecuting attorney's race.

Randal Yoshida was second.

Those who thought sentencing has been appropriate tended to favor David Arakawa and to a lesser extent Carlisle.

When asked about firearms for protection, 99 percent of those polled said they have not obtained a gun within the last year and 88 percent said they hadn't even considered it.

"That ended with the Wild West days," said Richard Tsuruda, a retired postal worker and Aina Haina resident.

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for previous days' poll results

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