Sex offender
Web site debated

A news conference by Republican state legislators turned into a partisan debate yesterday when Democrats objected to GOP assertions that House majority leaders were protecting sex offenders.

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The verbal sparring at the Capitol was over proposals to have voters ratify two constitutional amendments aimed at strengthening laws governing convicted and accused sex offenders.

One amendment would reopen the state's Sex Offender Registry Web site, while the other would toughen laws that prevent rape suspects from introducing the victim's sexual history at trial.

Democratic leaders in the House Judiciary Committee amended the Sex Offender Registry Web site proposal (Senate Bill 2843, SD1) to entitle convicted sexual offenders separate court hearings to determine if they are a danger to the community before the state can make public their crimes, home and work addresses, pictures and information about their vehicles.

The Judiciary Committee also amended the other proposal (Senate Bill 2846, SD1) by deleting proposed constitutional protections of rape victims' sexual history because current law already prevents such use by rape suspects, said Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Halawa Valley-Aiea Heights), committee vice chairman. The bill still contains proposed constitutional protection of communications between rape victims and their counselors.

"The House Judiciary Committee's amendments to this bill are a travesty and sets sex assault back to the Dark Ages," Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Kaimuki-Kalani Valley) said at the news conference. "I think I'm mostly upset about these two bills because they protect the convicted felon, they protect the defendants."

Backing up Marumoto and other GOP lawmakers were Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle and state Attorney General Mark Bennett.

Regarding the changes to the Sex Offender Registry law, Bennett said the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that convicted sex offenders don't have a right to a court hearing before being put on the sex offender registration list, contrary to a 2001 ruling by Hawaii's Supreme Court that shut down the state's Web site.

As news conference attendees continued to criticize the Democrats' changes, several key House Democrats, including House Judiciary Chairman Eric Hamakawa (D, Hilo-Glenwood) and Oshiro showed up and were offered a chance by the Republicans to respond.

"We all support publishing the names of these individuals who are sex offenders, who molest children, who are a danger to our communities," Hamakawa said, adding that lawmakers two years ago established a hearings process for a public sex offender registration list after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled it was required.

"Why haven't any of these hearings been done," Hamakawa said. "All we're doing is putting into place a process that will allow a defendant to go before a court, a judge, so the judge can look at this person and make a determination: Is this person dangerous? Should this person be on the list?"

Carlisle took the podium and said requiring hearings would require "a wealth of investigations and a wealth of people assigned to that investigative task" to get current information "regarding dangerousness" of sex offenders dating back to the 1960s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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