The Kekaha train robbery

This is part 3 of three on the story of the Kekaha train robbery. Last week’s outlined the investigation of the robbery on Feb. 11, 1920.

The trial

(Mana resident Kaimiola) Hali was indicted by a grand jury. Philip Rice was appointed the people’s prosecutor.  

The District Court Judge was new to the bench and the defense attorney took advantage of the judge’s inexperience and nearly caused a mistrial by his conduct.     

Hali’s conviction depended on the proof of circumstantial evidence. He was a long-term resident of Mana and was acquainted with its terrain. He had knowledge of the railroad line between Kekaha and Mana and knew where it was customary to slow the train. Hali was once employed by Kekaha Sugar Plantation and knew how to operate a locomotive. Hali was a regular attendee of the movies shown in Kekaha and Mana, these movies often depicted scenes of stage and train robberies. Hali took an avid interest in these movies.

On several days before the robbery Hali was seen riding the train between Kekaha and Mana with a bundle of clothes under his arm.

Hali made frequent inquiries at the plantation office as to when the paymaster would be going to Mana.

Further testimony of circumstantial character dealt with the finding of the loaders garb and Hali’s attempt to deceive the sheriff on the depth of Mana swamp and the tabi tracks.

The tie strings of the hood and the lard can were identified and testimony was given that Hali had shown an interest in the can and that it had disappeared a day or two before the robbery.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury deliberated and returned a verdict of robbery in the second degree with a request that the court show extreme leniency.

Hali was sentenced to be imprisoned for not less than three years and not more than 20 years.

Four years after the robbery, in 1924, Philip Rice ran for the office of a Delegate to Congress.  Concluding a political speech at Aala Park in Honolulu he stepped from the speaker’s platform to shake hands with the voters. The first to come forward and cordially shake Philip’s hand was Kaimiola Hali. Who greeted Philip Rice in saying, ”Hello, Philip I’m  going to work like hell for you!”

Where but Hawaii would this happen?

— As told by Philip Rice



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