Hawaii News Conviction in manslaughter case is overturned By Ken Kobayashi May 17, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! STAR-ADVERTISER LIBRARYLess Allen Schnabel, Jr. is emotional as he speaks before the court during his 2008 sentencing. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. A city deputy prosecutor’s remarks to jurors that they shouldn’t get caught in the "mumbo jumbo" of the judge’s instructions has led the Hawaii Supreme Court to overturn a manslaughter conviction for a man accused of recklessly killing a North Carolina visitor with a single punch. In a 3-2 ruling Friday, the high court ordered a new trial for Less Schnabel Jr. on the manslaughter charge in the death of Christopher Reuther, who was visiting to consider enrolling at the University of Hawaii law school. Reuther, 34, was knocked unconscious at the parking lot of Zablan Beach Park in Nanakuli in April 2007. He died four days later. Schnabel, 26, was sentenced to a maximum 20-year prison term. His conviction was upheld by the Intermediate Court of Appeals. But in a lengthy 86-page majority opinion written by Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, the court held that the prosecutor’s remarks during closing arguments violated Schnabel’s rights to have the case proven against him beyond a reasonable doubt. Deputy Prosecutor Darrell Wong told the jury not to "get too caught up in the mumbo jumbo of all the words (of the jury instructions)." He went on to urge them to rely on the "gut feeling we talk about deep down inside." Schnabel’s trial lawyer objected, arguing that the jurors should not be permitted to decide guilt "on their gut." The majority said the deputy prosecutor "essentially suggested to the jury that the jury instructions were incomprehensible gibberish, thereby denigrating statements of law on which the jury had been or would be instructed." In a 51-page dissent, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald agreed the remarks were "improper," but said they didn’t harm Schnabel because the judge gave curative instructions reminding the jurors that they have the definition of reasonable doubt and they shouldn’t be influenced by "pity, passion and prejudice." City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said Wednesday he "strongly" agrees with Recktenwald’s dissent. "We can’t undo what happened in 2008, but we are conducting extensive training with deputies on how to properly argue cases so we can prevent this from happening in the future," Kaneshiro said. Schnabel’s lawyer, Emmanuel V. Tipon, could not be reached for comment. The majority also ruled on separate grounds for overturning the case. The justices cited the trial judge’s ruling that a transcript of the medical testimony from a prior juvenile proceeding against Schnabel in another assault case could be introduced if he took the stand and testified he didn’t know a single blow could cause a death. The prosecution maintained that the medical testimony would show that Schnabel was aware a blow to the head could be fatal. But the majority said the testimony was inadmissible and Schnabel decided not to testify partly because the prosecution would be allowed to introduce the transcript. The ruling, the majority said, infringed on Schnabel’s constitutional right to testify. Recktenwald said the testimony was admissible and Schnabel received a fair trial. During the trial, Schnabel’s defense was that he acted in self-defense. The prosecution said the punch was unprovoked. Associate Justices James Duffy and Sabrina McKenna joined in the majority decision. Associate Justice Paula Nakayama also dissented. Previous Story 'Big stinky 'mars the air Next Story Richard Kahle Jr.