Insanity defense fairer
in Hawaii than Texas

The issue: A Texas jury rejected
Andrea Yates' insanity defense
in the slaying of her 5 children.

THE conviction of Andrea Yates of capital murder for drowning her five children puzzled many observers who attributed the deaths to her mental illness. The quick verdict demonstrated the difficulty defense attorneys experience in trying to successfully use the insanity defense, even in states such as Hawaii where the burden is less onerous than Texas, where the law is unreasonable.

However, juries rarely acquit on the basis of the defendant's insanity. The most recent in Hawaii to be committed to the State Hospital instead of being sent to prison was Herbert Cruz, acquitted by a Big Island judge in January for the 1998 stabbing death of his sister. Conversely, Byran Uyesugi was convicted two years ago for seven murders at a Xerox building, although he unquestionably was experiencing a delusional disorder.

Andrea Yates would have had a better chance of an insanity acquittal in Hawaii than in Texas, where her attorneys had to prove only that, more likely than not, she failed to understand that she was committing a crime or doing wrong. While diagnosed as schizophrenic as well as having postpartum depression, Yates took actions indicating strongly that she knew that killing her children was wrong, dialing 911 and admitting to police that she expected to be punished.

In Hawaii, unlike Texas, Yates' attorneys could have tried to make the case that she knew her action was wrong but lacked "substantial capacity" to conform with the law because of mental illness. Congress and most states, including Texas, discarded that provision of federal and state laws after John Hinckley was acquitted by reason of insanity in 1982 for shooting President Reagan and three other men.

Hawaii's Legislature did change the state's law at that time to place the burden on the defense to prove insanity. Prior to that, the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the wrongfulness of the crime.

Juries remain wary of acquitting a defendant for reason of insanity and allowing a killer or rapist back into society. Warren Miller, who was acquitted in 1977 of rape and attempted murder in the brutal attack of a 20-year-old tourist, remains in the State Hospital, despite numerous legal requests for release. Uyesugi can expect to spend the rest of his life in the hospital.



Senate should oversee
but not overreach

The issue: Questions emerge
as the Hawaii Tourism Authority
sets out to find a leader.

STATE Sen. Donna Mercado Kim's proposal that the director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority be subject to confirmation merits approval if it assures legislators and taxpayers that the most qualified person has been selected for the job. Lawmakers should be cautious, however, about possibly disrupting or interfering with the HTA's autonomy.

Kim's plan comes with her dismay in learning from people she describes as "good sources" that Paul Casey, vice chairman and chief executive of Hawaiian Airlines, has been chosen for the HTA post without the authority first conducting a diligent search.

Her objection isn't about Casey himself, but that "a fair and proper" selection process is being ignored. HTA officials deny that a decision already has been made, although they acknowledge that Casey would be considered a good candidate. Casey, through a spokesman, said he remains in his job with Hawaiian, but he may be looking for work if the proposed merger of Hawaii's two interisland airlines goes through.

The senator has been critical of the HTA, particularly after a state auditor's report that the agency has not provided clear accounting of how it spends its $61 million annual budget, which it receives from a state hotel room tax. The audit questioned the way HTA contracted for the services of its former executive director, Robert Fishman, through his company, rather than hiring him outright. The authority has said it will not repeat that process, but Kim appears unconvinced.

The HTA, which is charged with supervision of marketing and promoting the foundation of Hawaii's economy, has insisted that it must remain separate from state government to be effective and has fought off interference from lawmakers. The authority should remain autonomous and immune from legislative meddling. At the same time, lawmakers should have a degree of oversight because the economy rests heavily on how well HTA carries out its purpose and because the money in its coffers comes from a state tax.

Kim is not seeking the power to choose the authority's chief; HTA's board rightfully has that prerogative as its members have the expertise and knowledge to know who would be able to take on the job. A confirmation process would serve to sustain the board's decision as well as give a broader segment of the tourism industry a say. It would place the confidence of the public squarely behind the authority's leaders.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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