Constitutional changes
needed to fight crime


Voters are being asked to approve four state constitutional amendments to change rules in the criminal justice system.

FOUR state constitutional amendments will appear on next Tuesday's ballot, all aimed at bringing common sense to the state's criminal justice system. The Star-Bulletin joins Attorney General Mark Bennett in recommending ratification of the amendments.

Casting votes in favor of the amendments is essential in ensuring that they are ratified. Blank ballots will count as "no" votes. The state Supreme Court ruled seven years ago that a majority of voters -- not just those casting votes on that amendment -- must approve an amendment for it to become part of the state Constitution. We recommend voting "yes" on all four.

State ballot question No. 1: Sexual assault crimes

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that jurors must agree on the dates, times, places and other circumstances of each of at least three acts of abuse to convict a defendant of a continuing course of conduct in sexual assault crimes involving minor victims. The requirement places an impractical burden on prosecutors because of children's inability in many cases to recall such detailed information in cases of alleged child molestation.

The amendment would allow the Legislature to re-enact a law allowing jurors to convict a defendant of continuous sexual assault during a specified time period even if they cannot agree on which of the multiple acts count toward the minimum of three.

Question No. 2: Megan's Law

The state Supreme Court decided in 2001 that Hawaii's sex offender registration law unconstitutionally denies convicted sex offenders the right to a hearing in order for the public to have access to the offender's registration information. Such state registries were enacted throughout the country following the 1994 rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a convicted child molester in New Jersey.

The amendment would allow the Legislature to determine different levels of public access for different offenses. In no case should any convicted sex offender be subjected to scarlet-letter exposure on the state's Internet registry without being afforded a hearing.

Question No. 3: Confidential communications

State law prevents the presentation in court of confidential communications between physicians and patients, psychologists and clients, and counselors and victims. The state Supreme Court interpreted the state Constitution to require that such communications must be disclosed in some circumstances.

Alleged crime victims should be provided more assurance of confidentiality. Defendants will retain the right given to them through the U.S. Constitution to gain access to confidential communications in some instances.

Question No. 4: Information charging

County prosecutors now can go to grand juries or to preliminary hearings in order to charge a person with a felony. Witnesses must appear in person to repeat statements they already have made to police. The amendment would allow prosecutors to present written statements of witnesses to a judge, who would find probable cause whether the accused person committed the crime charged.

The amendment received 57.3 percent of the vote in the 2002 election but the Supreme Court ruled that the Attorney General's Office had violated publication requirements leading up to the election. Voters will need to repeat their approval to provide for this important streamlining of the charging process.




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

David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,

Dennis Francis, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

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 -- https://archives.starbulletin.com