Nanci Kreidman, of the Domestic Violence Action Center, says the disturbing video gives people a glimpse of what victims go through daily. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Benjamin Ignacio (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The disturbing video is just one minute and 50 seconds long, but it feels like an eternity.
It it, Justin McKinley can be seen beating a woman in a hotel room in 2014. The video was shown to jurors, and McKinley was convicted of promoting prostitution and sentenced to 20 years.
But last week, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals overturned the conviction because of statements about the victim a city deputy prosecutor made during closing arguments.
The deputy prosecutor told jurors, "She’s not a piece of property. I mean, she’s somebody’s daughter. She’s somebody’s friend. She’s a mother. She’s a woman. She is a person and she deserves to be treated properly."
McKinley's attorney, Benjamin Ignacio, argued in an appeal that those statements played too heavily on the jury's emotions and may have unfairly influenced the verdict.
And the appeals court agreed.
Nanci Kreidman, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center, expressed outrage over the higher court's decision. She said the video is very hard to watch, and that the deputy prosecutor should be commended for trying to humanize the victim.
"The way this young woman's body was degraded and devalued makes me sick," Kreidman said.
At one point in the video, McKinley appears to be holding the woman's face and speaks to her:
McKinley: "You going to pack up your (expletive) and leave? What the (expletive) you going do? Huh? What are you going do?" Woman: "Get money." McKinley: "Get money by all means necessary; right?"
McKinley then hits the woman, and orders her to take off all her clothes.
He continues to yell at her as she stands in front of him.
The cell phone video was taken by Bruce Lawrence, who was also found guilty of pimping.
Legal experts also seemed puzzled by the higher court's decision.
Ken Lawson, of the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, says the closing arguments of a trial are supposed to play to the juror's emotions.
"Everybody knows in closing arguments, it's showtime," he said. "That's when the lawyers come out and give the jury what they've been sitting weeks and days for, summing up the evidence. And you're allowed to make persuasive arguments."
Ignacio, meanwhile, describes what his client was doing as assault and says he should have been charged with that.
"My client was caught on video doing something that was reprehensible," Ignacio said. "It depicts a pretty violent assault. Now, if you look at the charges that the prosecution brought, no assault was ever prosecuted. To me, that's dropping the ball."
Assault carries a sentence of about five years. McKinley got 20 for promoting prostitution.
Kreidman says the while the video is hard to watch, it gives people an idea of what victims are forced to endure. She also said she wishes McKinley had been charged under new sex trafficking laws that didn't exist in 2014.
Lawrence, the man shooting the cell phone video, was sentenced to 10 years in the case. He'll also get a new trial under the court ruling issued last week.