HONOLULU (KHON2) — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevent victims of crimes from receiving justice.
That’s according to Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Mark Recktenwald, who spoke Wednesday during his State of the Judiciary address.
More than 2,200 criminal cases have yet to be tried on Oahu alone. As Honolulu courts resume trials, jury selection, and a reduced budget are hurdles for Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm.
“You add to it more than 800 domestic violence cases that are backlogged, thousands of cases in District Court, there are COVID (emergency rules violation) cases, there were other misdemeanor cases, DUIs. There’s a huge backlog,” Alm said.
The prosecutor says he is trying to get creative with defenders to get punishments in those cases without a dismissal, but renting space large enough to socially distance a jury trial is another roadblock.
“They have checked out multiple places around town, but they’re all charging money like $2,500 a day and the judiciary doesn’t have that kind of money,” Alm said.
For its 2022 budget, which is set to begin in July, the judiciary is asking that its budget not be cut any further than the 8.3% cut it faced in FY 2021.
“While we know the road ahead is difficult, we respectfully request an operation that is steady with no increases but no further reductions,” Justice Recktenwald said.
The Prosecutor’s Office is trying to get jury selections large enough for some trials, like the case against Hailey Dandurand and Stephen Brown, who are accused of murdering Telma Boinville on Oahu’s North Shore.
“You need 130, 140, you need a lot more people in a panel, and especially if it has any kind of publicity,” Alm said.
Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Victor Bakke says he thinks Alm has a practical common-sense attitude about this, but is concerned that it is becoming a growing public safety issue.
“If the community feels that there’s no consequences or anything that basically the courts not functioning so it’s open season. That is not good,”