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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court–No. SCWC-16-0000673

No. SCWC-16-0000673 Thursday, January 31, 2019, 8:45 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAI I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. RINALDO J. TORRES, JR., Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for petitioner:

Emmanuel G. Guerrero of the Law Offices of Emmanuel G. Guerrero, LLLC

Attorney for appellee:

Brandon H. Ito, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 11/20/18.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

On August 27, 2014, a grand jury indicted Rinaldo J. Torres, Jr., on one count of robbery in the first degree and one count of terroristic threatening in the first degree. Before the trial began, Torres submitted a form to the circuit court stating he wished to proceed by a bench trial. The circuit court engaged in a colloquy with Torres regarding the waiver of his right to a jury trial. During the colloquy, the court explained the rights that Torres would be giving up by not having a jury trial. The court, however, did not ask Torres whether his decision to give up his right to a jury trial was voluntary or if anyone had influenced his decision to relinquish his jury trial right. Based on Torres’s responses, the court found that he had knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial.

Also, prior to the start of trial, and at the close of the State’s evidence, the court did not advise Torres of his right to testify or not to testify. Torres elected to testify. At the conclusion of trial, the court found Torres guilty on both counts.

Torres appealed his conviction to the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) and argued that the circuit court erred by (1) failing to provide a pre-trial advisement regarding his right not to testify; and (2) finding that the waiver of his right to a jury trial was voluntary. The ICA held that although the circuit court erred by not advising Torres of his right not to testify, he was not prejudiced by the error because his testimony was essential to the defense that he presented at trial. The ICA also held that the circuit court did not err in finding that Torres’s waiver of his right to a jury trial was voluntary.

In his application for a writ of certiorari, Torres asserts that the ICA erred in holding that he voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial and that he was not prejudiced by the lack of a pre-trial advisement.