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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court

(Amended)

No. SCWC-14-0000427, Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 5:15 p.m.

STATE OF HAWAI`I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. EUGENE PARIS, JR., also known as EUGENE J.E. RIVERA, JR., Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.
 
The above-captioned case was set for argument on the merits at:

University of Hawaii at Manoa
William S. Richardson School of Law
2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822

Attorney for Petitioner:

Marcus Landsberg, IV

Attorney for Respondent:  

Brian R. Vincent, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 12/24/15.

COURT: MER, CJ; PAN, SSM, RWP, and MDW, JJ.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

Petitioner/Defendant/Appellant Eugene Paris, Jr. (“Paris”) was charged with, and later convicted of, Escape in the Second Degree in violation of Hawai`i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 710-1021 (2014).  The charge stemmed from a three-week period of time during which Paris did not report to his case manager at the Laumaka Work Furlough Center (“LWFC”) as required under his Furlough Agreement and Extended Furlough Contract.  HRS § 710-1021 provides, “A person commits the offense of escape in the second degree if the person intentionally escapes from a correctional or detention facility or from custody.”
 
HRS § 710-1000 (2014) does not define “correctional facility.”  HRS § 710-1000 defines “[d]etention facility” as “any place used for the confinement of a person:  (a)  Arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense; (b) Confined pursuant to chapter 571; © Held for extradition; or (d) Otherwise confined pursuant to an order of a court.”  HRS § 710-100 defines “[c]ustody” as “restraint by a public servant pursuant to an arrest, detention, or order of a court.”  The State’s Amended Felony Information did not include the statutory definitions of “detention facility” or “custody.”
 
The defense filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss the information, arguing that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the case because “the information [was] defective in failing to take into account the thirty day grace period provided by the State of Hawaii, Department of Public Safety, Corrections Administration Policy and Procedures, § 493-14-01.”  The State counter-argued that the regulations did not provide for a thirty-day grace period.  At a pre-trial hearing on the motion, the State also argued that the furlough agreements executed by Paris were not contracts.  The circuit court denied the motion.

The defense later filed another motion to dismiss the information for failure to state an offense, arguing that the information failed to define “custody,” and, thus, failed to allege an essential element of the offense.  The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the term “custody” as defined in HRS § 710-1021 was “an unmistakable term readily comprehensible to a person of common understanding,” and that the “statutory definition of ‘custody’ [did] not create any additional essential elements” to the offense of Escape in the First Degree that needed to be alleged in the information.  In other words, the circuit court concluded that the information provided fair notice to Paris of the offense he was alleged to have committed.

Immediately prior to trial, defense counsel orally requested that the State be judicially estopped from referring to Paris’s furlough agreements as contracts at trial due to the State’s pre-trial argument that the furlough agreements were not contracts.  The circuit court denied the request.
 
At trial, Paris’s case manager and a LWFC sergeant both testified that Paris was supposed to report to LWFC at a certain date and time but did not show up, even when the time to report was extended an additional 12 hours.  A Honolulu Police Department police officer testified that, three weeks later, he apprehended Paris during a traffic stop.  According to the police officer, Paris provided him with a false name.

The trial court instructed the jury on “custody” for the purposes of Escape in the Second Degree as follows:

An escape can be perpetrated by a person even though he is not in actual physical custody or under immediate control and supervision of a guard.  A person may be deemed to be in custody when released from a correctional or detention facility on furlough and legally bound by restrictions.

During closing argument, the State argued that Paris acted intentionally when he “blew off supervision and decided on his own accord that he was done with his sentence,” and that he “was going to do whatever he wanted in the community with no supervision.”  The State argued that Paris “absolutely understood,” “knew crystal clear,” “understood and agreed” that he had to check in weekly at LWFC.  Instead, the State argued, Paris “blew off” his meeting with his case manager and “decided he wasn’t going to show up,” “decided he wasn’t going to do it,” and “refused to do that.”  The State pointed to the police officer’s testimony that Paris lied about his identity to show that Paris “intended to violate, the terms of his extended furlough agreement, and he intentionally escaped from custody.  He tried to lie his way out.”

        The ICA affirmed Paris’s judgment of conviction and sentence.  On certiorari, Paris presents the following questions:

        I.    Whether the ICA gravely erred in concluding that the charging language for Escape in the Second Degree was sufficient.

        II.    Whether the ICA gravely erred in concluding there was sufficient evidence to uphold Paris’ conviction for Escape in the Second Degree.

        III.    Whether the ICA gravely erred by determining the Prosecutor did not commit misconduct or misstate the necessary state of mind.

        IV.    Whether the ICA gravely erred by concurring that the Court’s jury instruction was a correct statement of the law and not an obvious inconsistency with the holding presented by Question 1.

        V.    Whether the ICA gravely erred by holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel.