HONOLULU (KHON2) — The State Senate today met with members to determine if they have two–thirds majority to convene a special session to address a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling affecting certain felony charges. The Senate said they want more information before convening, meanwhile, prosecutors said there is no time to delay, fearing some cases could be dismissed.
The Senate announced members want to see a Bill for review before voting to convene a special legislative session. This is after a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that said preliminary hearings are no longer valid for charging serious crimes and indictments from grand juries are needed.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said there are about 160 charges now in jeopardy.
“We’re talking 25 murder, attempted murder cases, 40 robberies, 30 domestic violence felony sex assaults kidnapping,” Alm said. “They are all serious cases and so we want to make sure we can do those cases, most of those guys are in custody so we want to keep them in custody until we can do these cases.”
Under state law, a trial must begin within 180 days of being charged.
Alm said, “They were charged some time ago, we went to a preliminary hearing all set for trial. Well now we have to go back to a grand jury, that clock is ticking.”
Alm said this is a numbers game, but said there are not enough grand jury sessions to charge all of the previously charged and new cases.
He added that prosecutors want the option to charge defendants through a preliminary hearing because some cases are better suited for that process, such as domestic violence cases. Some victims may not want to testify months later during a trial, but evidence from the preliminary hearing could be used.
Alm said, “Because the preliminary hearing is kind of a mini-trial there’s an opportunity for cross-examination we then could put the transcript of that hearing into evidence in front of a jury on that case.”
For now, prosecutors are relying on grand jury panels formed by regular citizens serving one-year terms to charge serious crimes.
Retired Judge Randal Lee said sometimes those grand jury panels of 16 people do not always go as scheduled.
Lee said, “Sometimes it’s difficult. So if you have less than eight people, the grand jury is canceled. The other thing is, the grand jury isn’t every day.
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The State House announced earlier this week that they have a two-thirds majority vote to convene a special session, the Senate will be the deciding factor.