A murder defendant could no longer escape conviction by convincing a jury that he or she intended only to injure another person under a bill pushed by state Attorney General David Louie and other law enforcement leaders.
The second-degree murder statute now requires prosecutors to prove an intent to kill someone to gain a conviction.
Louie said the bill would fix what prosecutors contend is a glaring loophole.
"When someone does something heinous, when they beat somebody, when they intend very serious personal injury … or (when there is) a strong probability of injury and the person dies," the assailant should be convicted of murder, he said.
Senate Bill 1229, also House Bill 1002, is the top priority for the Hawaii Law Enforcement Coalition, made up of the attorney general, and both the prosecuting attorneys and police chiefs of all four Hawaii counties. The Legislature opened its annual session last week.
The law enforcement coalition has only one other priority this session: a bill designed to give more protection to victims of domestic violence by stiffening the penalties against those commit crimes in violation of restraining orders.
"Current laws do not provide nearly enough protection for victims of domestic violence," Louie said.
Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said domestic violence victims often don’t feel enough protection is offered to assure them that they are doing the right thing in coming forward against their abusers.
Senate Bill 130 and companion House Bill 1003 raise the seriousness of each offense for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, second-degree assault and first-degree terroristic threatening when that crime is committed in violation of a temporary restraining order. A second-degree murder case would automatically become first-degree murder, manslaughter would be second-degree murder, and a misdemeanor assault would be a felony.
"We hope that by having this bill in place, it will encourage more victims to seek restraining orders and not simply look at it as just a piece of paper," Iseri-Carvalho said.