Jeremy Kawika Lee could be the first person in the state to face stiffer penalties for a deadly crash under Kaulana’s Law. His sentencing trial for the hit and run death of Dr. Eugene Chin began Tuesday.
Kaulana’s law went into effect in July 2018. It could add an additional 10 years of prison time to Lee’s sentence, but prosecutors first need to prove its necessary to protect the public.
Lee has already pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for killing Chin in September 2018. According to prosecutors, Lee hit Chin who was walking his dog, and and then left the scene. Lee was arrested a week later.
Lee is already looking at a maximum of up to 10 years in prison. His sentencing trial is meant to determine if he should face an additional 10-year prison term.
Attorney Megan Kau is not involved with the case, but said they need to have the mini-trial to find out who witnessed the crash, who saw Lee at the scene, and look at what Lee did when he was caught.
“There needs to be a fact-finding procedure the court just can’t say no I’m gonna give you 20 instead of 10.”
The court will also look at Lee’s history.
“If he does have a history of convictions and he got into this accident and he left his victim helpless and without aid, then (Judge Karen Nakasone) is going to find that it’s necessary for the protection of the public and she’s going to extend his term for 10 to 20 years,” Kau explained.
Kau said the case will be a landmark case.
“First of all, I can see (Lee) appealing because this is the first time that anyone has ever relied on this law. And so he’s going to have to test it out so that’s the most significant thing.”
Kaulanas law was named after Kaulana Werner who was killed by Myisha Armitage in a hit and run crash in 2016. Armitage was drunk at the time of the accident and recently convicted of negligent homicide.
Kaulana’s Law could not be used in her sentencing because it was adopted after Werner was killed.
Ed and Paula Werner, Kaulana’s parents were in court today to support the Chin ohana.
“We feel for the victims,” Werner said. “Especially for (Kaulana’s law) being used first for Dr. Chin, that this bill is being applied…With our son’s bill, we know it’s not implemented in our son’s death, but it brings out that we could do something good for others.”
Werner said that he feels a sense of pride knowing that his son’s name and memory will live on in this law.
Jeremy K. Lee’s trial will resume on Wednesday.