Massie Case Revisited

Published: Aug. 3, 2006 at 10:39 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2006 at 11:05 PM HST
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Lt. Governor Duke Aiona presides over the Massie mock trial.
Lt. Governor Duke Aiona presides over the Massie mock trial.

by Darren Pai

(KHNL) - In 1931, Thalia Massie, an aristocratic Navy wife, accused five Honolulu men of raping her after she left a club near the ala wai canal.

During a mock trial re-enactment of the case Thursday, defense attorneys said there were holes in Massie's story.

"She could give description whatsoever except to say these men were hawaiian," said Howard Luke, defense attorney.

The mock trial was part of the American Bar Association's convention being held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The Massie case ignited racial tensions in 1930's Hawaii. For this mock trial, modern day forensic scientists examined evidence collected 75 years ago.

"On that night, she was sexually assaulted," said Darlene Shelton, a forensic psychologist.

Experts testified Massie's psychological profile was consistent with a woman who'd been raped.

"She was very focused on the crime that had been perpetrated against her rather than her own experience and emotional state during the assault," Shelton said.

But physical evidence collected during the investigation failed to link Massie with any of the five men accused of assaulting her.

"There is no evidence that I can find in any of the reports indicating that any one or more of these defendants was the offender causing the sexual assault," said forensic scientist James Starrs.

The original case ended in a mistrial. This time, members of the audience served as the jury and came back with a unanimous verdict of not guilty.