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Gutting the Fifth
Island electorate surrenders rights

by Brian mercy, '03


“No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury….nor shall be compelled to in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

These are clauses of the Fifth Amendment, and the people of Hawai‘i lost their right to them on Nov. 5. Elimination of the jury indictment or judicial arraignment stage of state criminal proceedings in Hawaii received a majority vote in the general election.

Honolulu County Prosecutor Peter Carlisle is an avid proponent of the change, claiming it will save time and tax dollars. “That’s a crock,” said Brent White, legal director of the Hawaii American Civil Liberties Union. “It may save us time and money, but the purpose of a grand jury is to screen cases that aren’t trial worthy, and this change undermines that.”

He continued, “It will give Peter Carlisle a lot more power, and prosecutors will always abuse their power. Why do you think he was out speaking to the public almost every day before the election?”

The ACLU made an unsuccessful legal attempt to squash the proposal. On Oct. 23, it filed a lawsuit on behalf of two voters claiming that voter education literature on the issue was misleading and inaccurate, and that no votes should be cast. The question on the voting ballot read: “Shall Hawai‘i’s constitutional provision regarding the initiation of criminal charges be amended to permit criminal charges for felonies to be initiated by a legal prosecuting officer through the filing of a signed, written information setting forth the charge in accordance with procedures and conditions to be provided by the state legislature?”

This means war for the ACLU. In effort to protect civil rights, it has filed another lawsuit in the state Supreme Court on behalf of 46 registered voters, which claims that the state did not follow proper procedure, and that the issue was contaminated with bias and inaccuracy. Consequently, citizens were not able to cast informed votes and the election was unfair. “The voters have been misled and lied to,” said White. “We’re filing the paperwork today, and the state Supreme Court will decide in our favor hopefully. This would be our last option, since the U.S. Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over this matter,” said White.






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