Completed questionnaires offer insight into prospective jurors for Kealoha trial

Completed questionnaires offer insight into prospective jurors for Kealoha trial
Louis and Katherine Kealoha walk into the federal courthouse on the second day of the so-called "mailbox trial." (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of the 413 prospective jurors for the Kealoha mailbox trial didn’t hold back when filling out questionnaires aimed at determining whether they could serve.

Hawaii News Now asked to see the completed, 30-question packet and Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright released a random sample of 50 people who were not called back and the 47 who were.

Questions 14, 15 and 16 were the most illuminating when it came to those who said they could not be fair and impartial:

One prospective juror wrote: “GUILTY” in all capital letters.

Another said, “I don’t know anyone who would find them not guilty, including myself."

Someone else wrote, “Trust in them has been totally eroded."

It went on and on:

  • “They have tainted the image of law enforcement.”
  • “There should be consequences … for someone who was the face of law enforcement.”
  • “I feel the defendant Katherine Kealoha is guilty.”

Some also complained about the use of court-appointed attorneys.

“As a taxpayer and law-abiding citizen, it is upsetting that their actions are causing so much inconvenience to people like me," the prospective juror said.

HNN didn’t not get names of jurors or identifying factors, just the answers to the questions requested.

Worth noting: There were a lot of prospective jurors who did not follow the case, even though it has garnered headline for four years and is considered the largest public corruption scandal in state history.

The 47 who were picked for further questioning knew something about the accusations against former Police Chief Louis Kealoha, his wife Katherine, an ex-deputy prosecutor, and three police officers.

All are charged with conspiracy and obstruction.

The government accuses the five of setting up a Kealoha relative to hide the power couple’s misdeeds, which allegedly include stealing from Katherine Kealoha’s elderly grandmother.

“It’s a matter of getting that person to say that regardless of what I’ve heard, I can still be fair and impartial,” says

Ronette Kawakami, associate dean for the University of Hawaii Law School, say it doesn’t matter if a prospective juror knows about a case. What matters is whether they can remain impartial.

“It’s a matter of getting that person to say that regardless of what I’ve heard, I can still be fair."

Ken Lawson, also of the UH Law School and an HNN legal analyst, agrees that knowing about the case didn’t instantly remove a prospective juror.

Those who did get called back to court said they did not know enough about the case to have already formed an opinion.

“Something about a mailbox,” one person wrote when asked on the questionnaire what they heard about the investigation.

There was also a handful who described themselves as having "a little info but not much” about the case.

It is a federal trial so the jury pool can include neighbor island residents being flown in. Lawson says that’s a huge advantage in federal cases, giving both the prosecution and defense more options.

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