Wednesday, March 3, 1999

Convention center
board should be kept

THE Legislature ought to heed the recommendation of the state auditor and extend the life of the Convention Center Authority. Under current law, the authority is to expire on June 30. Although the Hawaii Convention Center was completed last year and is operating, the authority's work isn't finished. As Auditor Marion Higa pointed out in her report, "Issues remain from construction and initial operations for which the authority should be held responsible and on which the authority is the most knowledgeable entity."

A consensus is developing that the authority should be extended for two years to complete resolution of complaints about noise from the rooftop terrace and establish a policy on use of the facility by local groups, among other matters.

A bill before the Legislature would transfer oversight of the center to the Hawaii Tourism Authority and require that body to pay the center's debt, estimated at $21 million a year. Members of the Tourism Authority board strongly oppose assuming financial responsibility for the center because it would cut deeply into funding for tourism promotion.

That objection is well-founded. To proceed with this plan would cripple the Tourism Authority's ability to perform its mission. Even if the authority is not required to make the payments, the money will come from taxes paid by the visitor industry.

The auditor also noted that the enabling law for the Convention Center Authority addressed only the building of the center. She urged that the Legislature formulate a specific purpose for the center in order to provide the basis for operating policies, strategies for attracting groups and mechanisms to ensure that goals are achieved and state interests protected.

However, the authority seems to have functioned effectively in the absence of such direction. The auditor's report acknowledged that the authority "has generally met its oversight responsibilities."

The report found that initial projections of bookings and revenues for the convention center were overoptimistic, but the authority's executive director, Alan Hayashi, questioned the assumptions on which that conclusion was based. In any case, there is no question that the convention center can be of great value to the visitor industry if properly managed.


Flawed Pada verdict

UNORTHODOX instructions to a jury resulted in a flawed verdict in the trial of a Kailua woman in the violent abuse of her 4-year-old son, Reubyne Buentipo Jr. Jurors were stunned to learn after returning a verdict of attempted murder against Kimberly Pada that the panel's answer to a judge's question could result in a lesser verdict that it never intended. Circuit Judge John Lim should acknowledge his error and declare a mistrial, allowing Pada to be tried again.

Reubyne was taken to Castle Medical Center on Aug. 31, 1997, suffering from multiple bruises, a severely injured skull, cigarette burns over his body and a left foot with flesh melted away from being exposed to hot liquid. Pada, who had been smoking crystal methamphetamine, admitted she had repeatedly struck her son. Relatives testified that she had abused her son on other occasions. Pada was charged with attempted murder.

At trial, Pada's attorney asked the jury to consider convicting her of attempted manslaughter, a lesser offense appropriate in cases where the assailant's actions were the result of an "extreme mental or emotional disturbance." However, the jury was not given that option, which is normally offered in such cases.

Instead, Judge Lim allowed the jury to render its verdict on the question of attempted murder -- guilty, the jury said -- and asked, apart from the verdict, whether the jurors believed the prosecution had proved Pada was not under the influence of an "extreme mental or emotional disturbance." The jury responded that the prosecution had not provided such proof.

Deputy Public Defender Helen Wong is expected to ask that Lim construe the jury's combined actions as an attempted manslaughter verdict. While an attempted murder conviction results in a mandatory life prison term with no chance of parole for 15 years, attempted manslaughter is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment with a minimum term of six years and eight months.

If the jury had been given the option, it might have found Pada guilty of attempted manslaughter. However, verdicts must be unanimous, and it is not known whether the jury's answer to the "emotional disturbance" question was supported by all members of the panel. Jurors were not asked whether they individually agreed with the answer; such polling of jurors is conducted only for verdicts, not for responses to ancillary questions.

The attempted-murder verdict is flawed by the answer -- unanimous or not -- to the "emotional disturbance" question; at least some jurors thought the crime did not rise to that level because of Pada's mental state. A second trial, properly conducted, is needed to bring justice to this case.


Dana Ireland case

DANA Ireland was beaten, raped and left to die in a remote area of the Big Island on Christmas Eve 1991. After numerous delays, jury selection in the trial of the accused, Frank Pauline, was scheduled to begin Monday, but his attorney, Clifford Hunt, requested another delay. Judge Riki May Amano reluctantly granted the request, scheduling jury selection for April 12 with the trial to start June 14.

Ireland's father, John Ireland, commenting by telephone from his home in Virginia on the latest postponement, said, "We've had it up to our ears." Who could blame him?

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