HONOLULU (KHON2) — Six months after a Hawaii Supreme Court decision invalidated the use of preliminary hearings to indict serious offenders, the legislature pushed a bill through that would reinstate the process.
It’s a bill awaiting the governor’s signature that would once again allow prosecutors to charge the most serious, violent felons via preliminary hearing.
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Steve Alm, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney said, “we had no doubt that the Legislature would want to restore what the voters had voted for with a constitutional amendment back in 1982. And, in fact, they did that. So, hats off to the legislature, “
In a statement, Blake Oshiro, senior advisor to Governor Josh Green, M.D., said:
“SB36 is on the Governor’s desk awaiting final legal and fiscal review before he makes his final decision by the March 22 deadline. He is working expeditiously and thoroughly, but we anticipate a decision very soon.”
Angela Lacey is still mourning the death of her boyfriend, Michael Stubbs, a security guard who was killed on the job last May. Lacey has doubts.
“How is there gonna be a guarantee that the overturns are not going to happen again?” she said.
The man accused of killing Stubbs was charged via preliminary hearing; so, when the Supreme Court decision was handed down, Lacey said it was like another blow to her heart.
“That was my greatest fear through this whole process. That’s the guy that got accused for taking Mike away from us had a chance to go free,” she said holding back tears.
Lacey wasn’t alone. The ruling impacted 176 other cases on Oahu and many more on the neighbor islands. Every one of them now needs to go get a grand jury indictment, or the state’s most violent felons would be set free.
Alm said the ruling threw the criminal justice system for a loop, and they’re still playing catch up.
“There are still a number of cases that that have to go to Grand Jury that went to preliminary hearing,” Alm said.
According to Alm, no one was released in Honolulu.
But, Kauai’s Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Like said one defendant accused of first-degree terroristic threatening was released there because they were not able to get a grand jury indictment in time.
County prosecutors had requested that the Legislature convene for a special session in the fall to address the issue, but that request was denied.
“We might have gone into special session if we’d reached an agreement earlier, but we weren’t able to,” Sen. Karl Rhoads explained.
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Rhoads, who is the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair said the special session wouldn’t have given them the time necessary to hash out the language of the bill.
He said he feels confident the governor will sign the bill into law.