Amendment would
modernize justice system


Voters will be asked in November to ratify four proposed state constitutional amendments affecting the criminal justice system.

HAWAII voters will have an opportunity in November to streamline the system for bringing criminal charges against alleged offenders without diminishing their rights. A constitutional amendment on the ballot would bring Hawaii to the standard used in most other jurisdictions, allowing county prosecutors to present documentation to a judge instead of going through the cumbersome grand jury system. The amendment should be ratified.

The proposed amendment was approved by voters in 2002 but the state Supreme Court ruled in February that the ratification process was flawed. The high court did not address the merits of the amendment, ruling only that information provided to the public was inaccurate.

The current system is onerous because police and witnesses are required to testify before a grand jury; hearsay is not allowed unless a witness is unavailable. City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle says witnesses and police officers are forced to wait in courthouse hallways for their turn to testify.

Carlisle estimates that 10,000 victims and witnesses a year are called upon to testify before grand juries. His office could save $500,000 a year by submitting papers to a judge to establish probable cause that a suspect committed a crime.

Another constitutional amendment worthy of ratification would give juries more flexibility in convicting a person of continuous sexual assault of a minor. The Supreme Court overturned such a conviction last year because the jury was unable to agree on the specific dates of the offenses. Jurors should be allowed to reach guilty verdicts without agreeing on the specificity that many children are unable to provide.

Another proposed constitutional amendment would deny the right to a hearing by past sex offenders who have served their punishment from lifetime humiliation by having their names, addresses and photos pasted on an Internet registry. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that convicted sex offenders have a right to hearings where they can argue that they should not be on the state's Web site.

Prosecutors say they lack the resources to provide hearings for the 1,900 past sex offenders in the state who have served their time. However, they can use common sense in providing hearings to the most recent offenders and those presenting the greatest public risk so they can be posted on the registry. Voters should not deny anyone such a basic right.

The effect of the other proposed amendment is questionable. It is aimed at toughening a state law that protects privileged communication between victims of sexual crimes and their treatment providers, such as physicians and counselors.

The proposal was prompted by a state Supreme Court reversal of a sexual assault conviction after a judge refused to allow defense attorneys to ask the complainant, whose credibility had come into question, whether she had recanted her accusation to a counselor. In such cases, the defendant should continue to be entitled to the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine an adverse witness whose credibility has become an issue.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke, Colbert
Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

E-mail to Editorial Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --