Karen's Law killed

Malanie McLellan
Malanie McLellan
Marcus Oshiro
Marcus Oshiro

By Paul Drewes bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Karen's Law, a bill named for an Oahu woman violently murdered, allegedly by a teenager, has been killed by a lawmaker. And this may be the last time we hear of Karen's Law.

There are many bills that never pass through the State Capitol because of a lack of support. But Karen's Law had supporters on its way through committee hearings.

"It was a baby step for what Hawaii really needs, to look out for victims and victims rights," said Malanie McLellan, Karen's daughter.

The measure was named after Karen Ertell, who was brutally raped and murdered, allegedly by her 15 year old Ewa Beach neighbor, Vernon Bartley. who was 15 at the time.

The bill would automatically try 15 year olds charged with first degree murder as adults.

But Karen's Law ran into opposition from Finance Committee Chair Marcus Oshiro.

"It will cause more problems for victim's families. By imposing another hearing and delay on a juvenile that is mandatorily waived from family court to circuit court," said the Representative from Wahiawa.

So Oshiro killed the bill, and the hopes of the Ertell family, who have had an emotional time since Karen's death.

"This law would have eliminated a year and a half of constant pins and needles wondering what would happen. This could have saved a lot of heartache," said McLellan.

Oshiro based his decision on his background in Hawaii's court system.

"Right now there is a weighing of the facts and evidence that brought about the incident. That is the process we have today and it works," said Oshiro.

Except in the Ertell case, when a normally 3-4 month hearing process dragged on for more than a year.

Family members have been fighting for this bill for two legislative sessions but this end means the end of their fight. Most cannot take another year of Karen's name being in the news, a constant reminder of her violent death.

"Its too emotional for them, they really did want it to go thru this time. One more time would prolong their grieving too much," said McLellan.

McLellan adds family members will ask to have Karen's name removed from future laws. But that she will continue her fight for the rights of victim's families.