State lawmakers say special session still possible to tackle high court ruling on felony cases
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii lawmakers say they’re still debating whether to hold a special legislative session to address a state Supreme Court ruling that’s put hundreds of felony cases at risk of being thrown out.
Earlier this month, the high court dismissed a murder case against a Kalihi man because he was charged by criminal complaint ― not grand jury indictment. Those writing for the majority said the Legislature failed to take action in the 1980s to clarify the law, which means a 1905 statute requiring grand juries still held.
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Since the ruling, defense attorneys have flooded courts with motions to get their clients cases thrown out.
Prosecutors said this threatens public safety and asked the state Legislature to hold a special session to rewrite the laws.
A special session can be called by the governor or through a request from two-thirds of the House and the Senate.
Senate President Ron Kouchi said the House has met that two-thirds threshold, and he’s now trying to find out if the Senate has enough support.
Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm is strongly calling for a special session.
“We need a special session because there’s no question,” said Alm on the Honolulu-Star Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii.
“I know there’s some irritation at the legislature that judciary created this problem, they should solve it. Our concern is they’re not going to be able to solve it. It’s a cumbersome process to get new grand jurors there. Understand, we only have three sessions a week right now, two morning and an afternoon. That, if all things go well, you can typically do three cases during that time. Although a murder case takes the whole session.”
Alm said his office alone has 160 serious felonies — including murders, robberies and sex assaults — that need to go through a grand jury process.
In a statement to the paper, Gov. David Ige’s office said, “It is premature to call a special session until there is consensus on a bill to address the issue.”
Last week, Kouchi said a special session is unlikely. But it’s now being reconsidered after House Speaker Scott Saiki said there is interest to convene.
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