Honolulu prosecutor won't seek extended sentencing for Matthew Higa
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
City prosecutors won’t seek a life-without-parole sentence for convicted child killer Matthew Higa. Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle announced the decision this afternoon but pledged to still ask the courts and parole authorities to imprison Higa for the rest of his life.
Higa, 24, was convicted earlier this month of second-degree murder for throwing a 23-month-old boy to his death from a freeway overpass January 17, 2008.
The second-degree charge carries a punishment of life with the possibility of parole, but Carlisle filed a motion after the conviction that would deny Higa the chance at parole.
Under a sentencing law enacted 2007, a jury must be empaneled to consider requests for such extended terms of imprisonment even in cases like the Higa trial in which the presence of a jury was waived and a judge found the defendant guilty.
Carlisle said today that means that witnesses from the trial would be required to come back and testify again in front of a sentencing jury.
“That could create all sorts of inconsistencies (and) discrepancies particularly with some of the witnesses who were, as you know, addicted to crystal methamphetamine,” Carlisle said.
“That would give a golden opportunity for review on appeal to give problems for the state,” the prosecutor continued.
Proceeding with sentencing on the second-degree murder conviction would avoid those problems, he said.
He said his office wants “to preserve the verdict, which we think is extremely important in this case.”
Carlisle said that even if Higa is eligible for parole, prosecutors will ask the Hawaii Paroling Authority to rule that Higa won’t be considered for release from prison for at least 200 years.
“I have no guarantee as to what the Paroling Authority is going to do. But looking at their history, I’m confident that they would do something that would befit the seriousness of this case,” Carlisle said.
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario will sentence Higa later this year.
Reach Jim Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8030.