HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three people sentenced for the brutal beating of hotel security guard, John Kanui, on Hawaii Island will be getting a new trial. The appeals court decision comes on the heels of the four-year anniversary of the attack.
Kanui’s family said they are shocked and in disbelief after the Intermediate Court of Appeals decision Friday.
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“It’s definitely is a low blow for the family to now have to endure a retrial and relive everything that happened to him physically, during that time and all the stuff that happened up to his passing,” said Erica Hill, Kanui’s niece.
In 2018, Kanui, who was a security guard, responded to a noise complaint in a Kona hotel parking lot when three people attacked him, beating him until he was unconscious. The attack left Kanui paralyzed as a quadriplegic.
In 2019, Wesley Samoa and Natisha Tautalatasi were sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for second-degree attempted murder and Lama Lauvao was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of assault.
However, the Intermediate Court of Appeals said the prosecution violated rules during the trial by showing video of Kanui at a rehabilitation facility in Colorado. The defendants argue that evidence of Kanui’s physical condition three months after the attack had no bearing on whether they, at the time of the incident, intended to cause his death.
“We never want a jury to decide that someone is guilty based on emotion or someone is not guilty based on emotion,” said Megan Kau, a defense expert. “The decision of guilt or not guilty needs to be made on facts and facts alone.”
Legal experts said it’s rare to see a case get remanded for a new trial and it may cause challenges for the prosecution.
“Witnesses’ memories will have faded, they might not be as easily available, or they might have moved away and have to fly back for the trial,” said Doug Chin, former Hawaii Attorney General. “Some other challenges that can occur is just having to put on a case where now they’re not going to include the rehabilitation video and they’re not going to make any reference to that.”
The Hawaii County Prosecutor’s office saidthey are extremely disappointed in the ruling and are considering challenging the appeals.
“This decision is not going to deter us from seeking justice for him and for his family and for the Kona community,” said Kelden Waltjen, Hawaii County Prosecuting attorney.
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Kanui’s family said as hard and traumatic the new trial will be, they will be in attendance on behalf of their father.