Challenges facing prosecution of domestic violence crimes

Challenges facing prosecution of domestic violence crimes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Recent headlines have drawn attention to the challenges in prosecuting domestic violence crimes. Many cases have been thrown out of court because they were dragging on for too long, according to Honolulu's prosecuting attorney. Keith Kaneshiro said a lack of resources is partly to blame for some abusers not being held accountable.

"There's only two courts that will hear these cases and there's lot of cases, and a lot of cases get dismissed because of a lack of speedy trial. The court is not able to accommodate the trials within six months," said Kaneshiro.

Kaneshiro said he had to give up a tough no-plea bargain policy so the courtrooms wouldn't be clogged with trials.

"It's a misdemeanor case and the defendant has the right to a jury trial, and a lot of them demand a jury trial because they know if they drag it out the case will eventually be dismissed," explained Kaneshiro.

But now he said he has to offer deals on reduced charges to avoid running out of time. Those deals often mean that first-time offenders end up with no criminal record. Some defense attorneys, however, say plea bargains are an essential part of the process.

"The problem is the prosecutor. For awhile, he had a no-drop policy, no-deal policy, and they weren't focusing on the most serious cases," explained Bakke.

Bakke believes that Kaneshiro's mismanagement is causing the trouble.

"It's the prosecutors not properly prosecuting and preparing their cases and putting the burden on their most inexperienced prosecutors," said Bakke.

Hawaii's judiciary system handles roughly 1,400 domestic abuse cases and restraining order violations a year. A spokeswoman for the chief justice said the judges and staff dedicated to those cases adequate for that number. She added that Kaneshiro's office has not raised concerns about a backlog of cases in recent meetings.