Oahu judges stop issuing warrants for no-show victims

HONOLULU — Some Hawaii judges will no longer grant prosecutors’ requests to arrest subpoenaed victims if they fail to appear for pretrial hearings, court officials said.

Judges of the 1st Circuit Court on Oahu will not issue bench warrants when victims do not show up for one of several pretrial hearings for defendants in misdemeanor abuse cases, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

Honolulu prosecutors have required victims to appear at most court hearings, saying their presence boosts the chances of reaching a plea agreement.

“The only way they believe we’re ready for trial is if they see that victim’s face,” said Tiffany Kaeo, deputy prosecuting attorney and head of the office’s domestic violence felony division.

Judges and victims disagree.

While being forced to see their abusers multiple times in court can be traumatic, victims claim it’s also a hassle. Court appearances typically require people to take off work, arrange for child care and deal with other inconveniences, like parking downtown.

“It is just not fair to all involved, particularly the complaining witness (victim), for them to be forced to come” to every session, said Judge R. Mark Browning, the chief and administrative judge for the 1st Circuit Court. “The complaining witnesses become so frustrated that they refuse to come after a while.”

Bench warrants allow victims to be arrested and brought to court, but they don’t address the root of the problem, Browning said.

“I don’t think that addresses the issue, and further victimizes the individual,” Browning said.

Browning informed prosecutors of the change last month.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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