High court vacates conviction in Kamehameha statue vandalism

  • WILLIAM ROY CARROLL III

The Hawaii Supreme Court has vacated the conviction of a man accused of vandalizing the statue of King Kamehameha the Great on the Hilo Bayfront during the Labor Day 2015 weekend.

In a 37-page opinion written by Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna and filed Jan. 24, the high court found Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara, who’s since retired, erred during jury selection for William Roy Carroll III by denying Carroll’s challenge of a prospective trial juror for cause.

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That denial caused Carroll to use one of his limited number of peremptory challenges — challenges which could be used against any prospective juror for any reason — and impaired Carroll’s “right to exercise a peremptory challenge on a different juror.”

The opinion remands Carroll’s case to Hilo Circuit Court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” In this case, that means a retrial, unless a deal can be reached.

Carroll was convicted by a jury and sentenced to five years imprisonment for second-degree criminal property damage and second-degree theft, both Class C felonies, for allegedly severing and stealing the top portion of a bronze spear from the statue, which is owned by the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association.

Carroll also was convicted of third-degree theft, a misdemeanor, for allegedly stealing a portion of heavy chain from a then-used car dealership nearby.

Carroll’s sentence, which includes credit for time served while awaiting trial, expires Jan. 23, 2021, but he already has been paroled.

The Supreme Court found Hara “abused (his) discretion in denying Carroll’s challenge for cause” of a woman, identified in the opinion only as “Juror 48.”

The woman said she’d been exposed to information regarding the case from Tribune-Herald stories and by her family. She told the court she “presumed (Carroll) guilty until he (could) prove his innocence” with “pretty good evidence.”

The high court also held, however, “because there was substantial evidence to support Carroll’s conviction … double jeopardy principles do not preclude a retrial.”

A second trial hasn’t been scheduled, according to the state Judiciary website.

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Carroll, who was 32 when sentenced on July 26, 2016, declined a deal from prosecutors prior to trial that would’ve freed him with time already served in exchange for a guilty or no contest plea.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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