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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Karen's Law moves forward

Advertiser Staff

A state Senate committee yesterday advanced a bill that calls for juveniles 15 to 17 years of age to automatically be tried as adults when charged with first-degree murder.

The bill, known as Karen's Law, was introduced after the 2007 rape and murder of businesswoman Karen Ertell in 'Ewa Beach, allegedly by a 15-year-old boy.

Last year, a judge ruled that Vernon Bartley should be tried as an adult for the crimes. The city prosecutor's office has said that Ertell, a neighbor of Bartley's family in 'Ewa Beach, was scheduled to testify against the teenager in a pending burglary case.

House Bill 819 was introduced by Reps. Kymberly Pine and John Mizuno. It called for juveniles to be automatically tried as adults if charged with first- or second-degree murder.

Under existing laws, juvenile crime offenders charged with first- or second-degree murder can face two trials one to determine which court to try them in and the second to decide guilt or innocence.

"I am upset that Karen's Law was amended to only include murder in the first degree," Ertell's daughter, Malanie McLellan, said in a statement. "However, I am happy that the bill is progressing through the state Legislature. I also hope that the journey will be over soon and that the Legislature will pass this much-needed law to protect the people of Hawai'i."