Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Supreme Court orders resentencing for rapist

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Supreme Court has ruled that a convicted rapist should not have been sentenced to an extended term of life in prison nearly 20 years ago for refusing to admit guilt.

In a unanimous decision released Wednesday, the justices threw out the 1984 sentence of Andrew Kamana'o and ordered that he be resentenced. Kamana'o was found guilty on Oct. 13, 1983 of two counts of first-degree rape and one count of first-degree sodomy.

With the ruling, it is unclear how much longer Kamana'o will have to spend behind bars. If he is resentenced to the standard 20-year term, he could be eligible for release soon because he has been in prison since his conviction.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said prosecutors need to look at the decision before issuing a comment.

David Bettencourt, who handled Kamana'o's appeal, could not be reached for comment.

Kamana'o had faced up to 20 years in prison when he was sentenced in 1984, but prosecutors argued for an extended term of life with the possibility of parole because they said he was a "multiple offender" and was a danger to society, that the offenses occurred while Kamana'o was on probation, and that the defendant showed a "total lack of remorse for his conduct" and refused to admit his guilt.

Then-Circuit Judge Donald Tsukiyama granted the extended term against Kamana'o.

On Sept. 15, 2000, Kamana'o filed a motion in Circuit Court arguing that the sentence was illegal because it was based solely on his refusal to admit guilt. Kamana'o argued that he intended to appeal the conviction and said it would have been "unwise and legally imprudent to admit" his guilt.

The justices agreed and in their ruling said Tsukiyama "violated Kamana'o's constitutional privilege against self-incrimination."

"The right to remain silent ... provides us with some of our most treasured protections — preservation of our autonomy, privacy, and dignity against the threat of state action," the justices wrote.

The justices added that a sentencing judge may consider a defendant's lack of remorse in assessing the likelihood of successful rehabilitation. But the court said a judge cannot "compel an admission of guilt or punish the defendant for maintaining his innocence."

Reach Curtis Lum at 525-8025 or culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.