HONOLULU (KHON2) — A retired judge said a recent Hawaii Supreme court ruling could allow violent offenders to go free.

“You really got a logistical nightmare in your hand,” said retired Circuit Court and prosecutor Judge Randal Lee.

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Lee said a poorly written amendment to Hawaii’s State Constitution decades ago could force the court to release Hawaii’s most dangerous criminals.

“We’re talking about class A felons with life imprisonment, or 20-year jail sentences,” Lee explained. “You’re talking about the murders, the robberies with a weapon. You’re talking about rapists or sex assaults. You’re talking about maybe some major drug offenders.”

In a statement, Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said: “Make no mistake about it, this ruling puts the public at risk.”

It all started when a judge dismissed the murder case against Richard Obrero Thursday.

Obrero is accused of shooting 16-year-old Starsky Willy in self-defense after Willy and several other teens shot BB guns and broke into Obrero’s home in November 2019.

Prosecutors were unable to get a grand jury indictment so they went to the district court to file a complaint and proceed by way of preliminary hearing. The courts ruled the case unlawful, saying it could only move forward with a grand jury indictment

According to Alm: “The Hawaii Supreme Court in Obrero ruled that this method, complaint and preliminary hearing, is now unlawful because of an obsolete 1905 statute that was overlooked when the constitution was amended 40 years ago. My office has over 160 cases that were charged under the complaint and preliminary hearing process and approved by judges for trial. This includes 25 murders, attempted murders, and manslaughters, over 40 robberies, and many other serious crimes such as arson, kidnapping, and sexual assault. Defense counsel, who have long lauded the virtues of the preliminary hearing process, are now using the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision to try to free their clients from jail.”

Lee said this could lead to a flood of motions to dismiss serious offenders. They would have to be released unless they’re indicted by a grand jury, and he said that’s not an easy feat.

“It causes a problem logistically with the circuit court because they don’t have enough panels in the grand jury,” explained Lee.

The prosecuting attorney said they’ll do everything they can to keep defendants in jail while they seek grand jury indictments.

According to Lee, there could even be retroactive implications.

“As a general rule, when it benefits the accused, the law would be applied retroactively. So you could see people going back and challenging their conviction.”

The only way to fix the problem long-term is for the legislature to amend the law.

“I think given the gravity of the situation, as outlined by the prosecutors, it’s clear that there’s definitely some next steps that have to happen,” said Sen. Chris Lee (D). “Hopefully, there’s something that can be done to make sure that the public is protected. And make sure that whatever deficiencies were in the law from generations ago can be corrected.”

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Alm added: “We will also be asking the Governor to call a special session.”