Parole board sets Lankford's minimum term at 150 years

Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor
Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor
Donald Wilkerson, defense attorney
Donald Wilkerson, defense attorney
Kirk Lankford
Kirk Lankford

By Minna Sugimoto bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - One hundred fifty years in prison. That's how long the man convicted of murdering Japanese tourist Masumi Watanabe must serve before he's eligible for parole.

Convicted killer Kirk Lankford was hoping the Hawaii parole board would have mercy on him. It didn't. Now, his incensed attorney is accusing the panel of acting dishonestly.

At a hearing last month, Hideichi and Fumiko Watanabe presented more than 35,000 petitions from residents of Japan and Oahu, urging the Hawaii parole board to set a lengthy minimum sentence for their daughter's killer. At 150 years, they got it.

"We immediately got in contact with the family in Japan," Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor, said. "Mrs. Watanabe was so overcome that she was in tears of joy."

But Kirk Lankford maintains it wasn't murder.

He says he was giving Masumi Watanabe a ride after his truck accidentally struck her arm. He says the 21-year-old died after she panicked and jumped out of the moving vehicle.

"This is a person who clearly is indifferent to other people's suffering and believes that the world entirely revolves around him," Carlisle said.

Lankford's lawyer says the parole board gave him until Thursday, April 16th, to respond to statements made by prosecutors at last month's hearing.

"Something that nobody should do at this point is to take Mr. Carlisle at his word. (He's) dishonest, very dishonest," Donald Wilkerson, defense attorney, said.

But Wilkerson says the panel handed down its decision Thursday, without even looking at his response.

"They had no business issuing a minimum sentence prior to receiving Mr. Lankford's documentation," he said. "There's no excuse for it. Not only that, they planned that disingenuous and dishonest move."

"Mr. Lankford's behavior after the victim died displayed a high degree of coldness and callousness," Albert Tufono, parole board chair, said. "This unconscionable behavior is viewed very seriously by this parole board."

"His callous indifference to the other people's lives and to Masumi Watanabe and to her parents was abundantly apparent to everybody in that room," Carlisle said.

"If you're going to put a man in jail for 150 years, you'd better damn well come up with the evidence," Wilkerson said.

Lankford's attorney plans to appeal the decision to the state Circuit Court.