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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 10, 2007

New case cited in call for Hawaii murder registry

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By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

The scheduled release of another killer into the community has renewed calls for an electronic registry of Hawai'i's violent criminals.

The latest case involves Curtis Kealoha, 59, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1994 death of his girlfriend. Kealoha was sent to the Hawai'i State Hospital in Kane'ohe, and Circuit Judge Glen Hara approved his release July 18 after he served 13 years.

Proponents of the registry say community members have a right to know whether a neighbor has been convicted of murder.

State Sen. Norman Sakamoto, D-15th (Waimalu, Airport, Salt Lake), a member of the Public Safety Committee, supports the idea, first proposed by Sen. Will Espero. He said a two-year trial period and benchmarks should be established to gauge the registry's success.

"Anything that would deter or reduce crime, I am in favor of," Sakamoto said. "If it doesn't work after a few years, we should move on, but anything we can do to improve safety in our community we should do."

Opponents of a violent-crime registry say the state's sex-offender registry on which the murder database would be modeled still is missing hundreds of sex offenders who have failed to register. They also question whether registries of this nature violate privacy rights and say the databases do little to actually reduce crime.

Lois K. Perrin, ACLU of Hawai'i's legal director, said a primary justification for a sex-offender registry is that sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism, whereas there is no evidence suggesting murderers have a similar rate of recidivism.

"It seems to be a rush to judgment. These are simply feel-good measures that do not increase public safety," said Perrin, who was part of a task force formed to study the sex offender registry prior to its creation. "It would seem appropriate in this case to convene a task force (to study the proposal) before introducing such a draconian law."

Perrin said she would have concerns about how violent crimes were classified and the number of people required to register.

Opponents also do not believe the financial resources, manpower or expertise exists to create and run such a registry. At the very least, they say, more research should be done before a registry is proposed.

OTHER STATE REGISTRIES

Hawai'i would join several other states with a registry for tracking violent offenders. Kansas, Montana and Oklahoma are among states that have violent-offender registries, which include names of convicted murderers.

Illinois has a Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry and lawmakers in Wisconsin and Minnesota are pushing for similar legislation.

The Hawai'i database would be modeled after the universal sex-offender registry, which all 50 states and U.S. territories maintain.

The registries provide the public with access to names, prior names, aliases, photographs, residence addresses, personal vehicles, street name of employment, college/university affiliation and crime for which the sex offenders were convicted.

Critics also have said the registries ignore privacy rights and set up registrants for harassment.

"It's another example of people, quote, trying to get tough on crime when they should get smart on crime," said Michael Iacopino, of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' board of directors in an interview with The Associated Press. "Legislatures didn't have the spine to basically say, whoa, what's the outcome of these community notification provisions?"

Espero, head of the state Senate's Public Safety Committee, said this week he plans to introduce a bill that would create the registry. Two convicted murderers recently accused of committing violent crimes while on parole prompted Espero, D-20th ('Ewa Beach, Waipahu), to pursue a mandatory registration.

WILL BE MONITORED

Kealoha has been in the state mental hospital since October 1996, two years after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the slaying of Victoria Agres, 49.

The court found Kealoha suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by combat experience in the Vietnam War.

The victim's daughter, Janelle Agres, told The Associated Press she believes the doctors pushed for Kealoha's release without considering the risk to the public.

"I want him to see my face," she said. "Whatever court date he has, I'm going to be there. I'll make sure he doesn't forget."

Kealoha will live in a group home on O'ahu and be monitored at all hours. He cannot leave the home unescorted without approval from his probation officer, and he must tell the probation officer about any romantic relationships he has. He may be there now, but the state would not confirm Kealoha's actual release date from the mental hospital because of federal and state privacy laws.

Police found Kealoha scratched and covered with the blood of Victoria Agres on Oct. 4, 1994. She was discovered dead in his bathroom.

Kealoha had been smoking crack cocaine the night of the killing, according to court documents.

"He did it while under the influence of cocaine while having a flashback that he was under attack in Vietnam," said Dr. Vit Patel, a physician and psychiatrist who examined Kealoha and supported his release.

Espero's upcoming bill was inspired by cases involving convicted murderers Peter Bailey and Darnell Griffin.

Last month, Bailey was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in the office of a Big Island church. In 1979, he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in the murder of a 17-year-old girl. Bailey was paroled in 2003.

Earlier this year, Griffin was charged with the murder and first-degree sexual assault of a 20-year-old woman. At the time, he was on parole after serving a sentence for the murder of another woman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.