Bill creates new
Prosecutors would have to
show that a reasonble person should
have known the actions could
cause serious injury
Pada verdict has lawmakersBy Craig Gima
The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a bill that creates a new crime of felony child abuse.
The Honolulu prosecutor's office says the bill would address cases of child abuse that involve shaken baby syndrome.
The measure would allow "reckless" conduct to be prosecuted as child abuse.
Dennis Dunn of the prosecutor's office said it can be difficult to prove "intentional or knowing" conduct in child abuse cases, which are now prosecuted under assault statutes.
"Offenses occur in the privacy of the home where only the offender and the victim are present," Dunn said.
Under the bill, prosecutors will be able to get convictions if they can show that a reasonble person should have known the actions could cause serious injury.
The measure would provide tougher penalties of up to 20 years in prison for those convicted of felony child abuse.
During testimony on the bill earlier in the week, deputy public defender Ronnette Kawakami suggested the bill could have unintended consequences of allowing prosecutors to charge parents for speeding in a car with children or throwing a ball at a child who was not wearing a safety helmet.
But the prosecutor's office said the measure could only be used in cases where serious bodily injury results.
Pada verdict has law-By Craig Gima
makers urging change
In the wake of a public outcry over the verdict in the Kimberly Pada child abuse case, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would shift the burden of proof away from the prosecution when a defense of "extreme mental or emotional disturbance" is used.
The Senate Judiciary Committee today was expected to pass a similar measure.
Pada was convicted of second-degree attempted murder for the severe abuse of her son, Reubyne Buentipo. Buentipo is expected to live the rest of his life in a coma.
Because the jury could not agree on whether Pada acted under extreme emotional disturbance, Pada will face up to 20 years in prison under manslaughter sentencing guidelines rather than life in prison with the possibility of parole.
"It (the Pada case) prompted us to take another close review of that part of the murder statute," said House Judiciary Chairman Paul Oshiro (D, Ewa Beach).
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said the change in the law is long overdue.
"Unfortunately, it wasn't in time for Reubyne," he said.
Public defender Richard Pollack thinks the outcry over one case is not a reason to change a law that he said has worked well for 30-years.
Pollack said the bill may mean people who should be convicted of manslaughter may unfairly be convicted of murder.
"This affected the spouse who has been abused for years and when she reacts because of the mistreatment, the mistreated or abused spouse is going to have to prove emotional disturbance." Pollack said.
Under the bill, the defense would have to prove with a "preponderance of evidence" that a person was acting under extreme emotional disturbance at the time of a killing or attempted killing instead of the prosecution having to disprove it "beyond a reasonable doubt".
Hawaii Revised Statutes