Thursday, May 27, 1999

Assessing blame for
Pearl Harbor

Bullet The issue: The Senate has voted to exonerate the top Navy and Army commanders in Hawaii at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
Bullet Our view: The blame probably extends far beyond the two commanders but it is difficult to accept that they were not partially responsible.

FIFTY-SEVEN years after Dec. 7, 1941, one would assume that enough time had elapsed to provide a clear and unemotional assessment of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the blame for that disaster. Yet still under debate are the actions of the top American commanders in Hawaii and the Pacific on that fateful day -- the Navy's Adm. Husband Kimmel and the Army's Gen. Walter Short.

Soon after the worst defeat in American history, Kimmel and Short were blamed for the fact that the U.S. forces on Oahu were caught by surprise. They were charged with dereliction of duty, relieved of their commands and retired at lower ranks.

The Senate voted Tuesday to exonerate Kimmel and Short and restore the ranks they held before the attack. But the vote -- 52-47 -- showed that the members were sharply divided, even those who fought in World War II. Hawaii's senators, Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, voted with the majority to clear the names of the two commanders. However, John Warner, R-Va., a former secretary of the Navy, and like Inouye a veteran of the war, opposed exoneration, noting that nine investigations had rejected it.

At the time of the attack, the nation was stunned and enraged. There was a strong feeling that someone had to be held accountable. The question is whether Kimmel and Short were truly culpable or convenient scapegoats.

Kimmel in particular mounted a vigorous defense of his actions, claiming that Washington had withheld vital information obtained by cracking Japanese codes that would have alerted him to the danger to Pearl Harbor. He said he had been told to anticipate an attack at Midway and prepared accordingly.

Both Kimmel and Short are dead, but their families have campaigned for their exoneration and the Senate vote means much to them. The resolution must still be approved by the House. Judging by the results in the Senate, the vote could be close.

The blame for Pearl Harbor and the resulting loss of thousands of lives probably extend far beyond Kimmel and Short, but it is difficult to accept that they were entirely blameless. No vote by Congress can resolve the question.

After all these years, the cloud of controversy still hangs over Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Memorial, dedicated to its victims, is an eloquent reminder of the consequences of the stupendous blunders that were made.

Pada should be retried
for attempted murder

Bullet The issue: Kimberly Pada was sentences for attempted manslaughter although a jury found her guilty of attempted murder of her son.
Bullet Our view: The Supreme Court should declare a mistrial and order Pada to be retried for attempted murder, with proper instructions to the jury.

AFTER being found unanimously by a jury guilty of attempted murder, Kimberly Pada instead was sentenced to a prison term of six years and eight months to 20 years for attempted manslaughter in the beating of her 4-year-old son, which left him in a coma.

That is not how the judicial system is supposed to work. The appeals process should allow the state Supreme Court to declare a mistrial and direct Circuit Judge John Lim to retry the case without confusing instructions to jurors.

A drug-crazed Pada brutally abused her son, Reubyne Buentipo Jr., in 1997, inflicting multiple bruises, severe injuries to his skull, cigarette burns over his body and melted-away skin from his left foot. The boy, now 5, remains in a coma.

A state jury in March found Pada guilty of attempted murder, but Judge Lim asked the jurors if they believed the prosecution had proved Pada was not under the influence of "extreme mental or emotional disturbance." The majority of a divided jury responded that it did not believe the prosecution had met that standard, required for conviction for attempted murder. Otherwise conviction for attempted manslaughter would be indicated. But jurors said they had no idea their answer to the judge's question would nullify their verdict of attempted murder.

Lim arrived at the conclusion that the jury's majority opinion that the prosecution's failure to disprove the standard for manslaughter should negate the attempted murder conviction. Thus Pada was convicted of a lesser crime for which there had been no unanimous verdict by a jury, a serious deviation from criminal law.

Such flawed instructions may never be given to another Hawaii jury. In reaction to the debacle in the Pada case, the Legislature passed a bill placing the burden on the defense to prove that extreme distress had led to the crime instead of requiring the prosecution to prove it had not.

At sentencing this week, the judge rejected the prosecution's argument that Pada be required to serve an extended term of life in prison rather than the normal maximum of 20 years in cases of attempted manslaughter.

But the case should not end there. Justice requires that the attempted-manslaughter verdict be scrapped and that Pada be tried again on the charge that a jury, to a person, found appropriate -- attempted murder.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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