Wednesday, July 30, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 6 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Isle history might be factor in case

By Associated Press


It's rare for the federal government to seek the death penalty in a state like Hawaii that doesn't allow it.

Only seven of 59 inmates currently on federal death row are from states that didn't have the death penalty at the time the sentence was imposed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Alberto Gonzales, U.S. attorney general during President George W. Bush's administration, made the decision to seek the death penalty against Naeem Williams, scheduled for trial Tuesday.

"Under Bush's administration, the philosophy was the federal death penalty should be spread out among all the states," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the information center.

Legal observers say it's surprising that the current administration continues to seek the death penalty against Williams.

"It's disappointing the federal government is choosing to move forward with a death penalty case in a state that so clearly and constantly has rejected that as a form of punishment," said Rick Sing, president of the Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The last time the federal death penalty was approved for a Hawaii case was against Richard "China" Chong. But before he went to trial in 2000, he agreed to plead guilty to a 1997 drug-related murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He died of an apparent suicide about three months later.

Hawaii's history with capital punishment goes back long before statehood. There were 49 executions in Hawaii dating to 1856, with the last one recorded in 1944, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The final execution of Ardiano Domingo — a Filipino who was hanged for killing a woman with scissors in a Kauai pineapple field — helped prompt Hawaii's territorial lawmakers to abolish the death penalty in the state, said Williamson Chang, a University of Hawaii law school professor who teaches a course on the history of law in Hawaii.

Chang said before the law changed, Hawaii disproportionally executed people of color, mostly Filipinos, Japanese and Native Hawaiians.

Because of that history, Chang said he believes Hawaii jurors will struggle with the Williams case.

"We're used to a society which does not put people to death," he said. "It's a slap in the face to the values of Hawaii."

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press

 Print   Email   Comment | View 6 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
eoe wrote:
"Because of that history, Chang said he believes Hawaii jurors will struggle with the Williams case." No, actually they won't because they can exclude jurors who don't want to apply the death penalty from the jury. Its not exactly a jury of peers when you exclude more than half the population.
on March 9,2014 | 07:17AM
GoldenRule wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 9,2014 | 08:47AM
eoe wrote:
Ok, I will trade you one death penalty law for a law that requires an IQ test before you can vote or comment online.
on March 9,2014 | 09:08AM
kekelaward wrote:
The crumb in this case beat and tortured a 5 year old girl, his own daughter, for days on end, with both his hands and a belt, on all parts of her body. He has no redeeming value to society what so ever. Just because Hawaii has a liberal outlook doesn't mean e lack common sense.
on March 9,2014 | 09:52AM
copperwire9 wrote:
Executing him would make us more like him. Is that what you want?
on March 9,2014 | 10:41AM
kekelaward wrote:
We're all human. Good and evil live in all of us. Most of us are able to contain the evil. Those who cannot are a danger to the rest of us. If it saves one other life, then it's worth it (that's what I'm always hearing about other, much smaller things, so it's got to apply to the MURDER AND TORTURE OF A CHILD).
on March 9,2014 | 01:10PM
Skyler wrote:
"Executing him would make us more like him."

How so?
on March 9,2014 | 03:01PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Maybe they need to take him back to his State of origin and try him there.
on March 9,2014 | 10:52AM