Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court–No. SCWC-18-0000505
No. SCWC-18-0000505, Thursday, December 19, 2019, 11:15 a.m.
STATE OF HAWAII, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. BENITO MARROQUIN, III, aka BENNY MARROQUIN, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.
The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:
Supreme Court Courtroom
Aliiolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Attorney for petitioner:
Victor M. Cox
Attorney for respondent:
Charles E. Murray III, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 10/16/19.
COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.
Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant Benito Marroquin III (“Marroquin”) was charged with one count of assault in the second degree, in violation of HRS § 707-711(1)(b) (2014). Prior to trial, Marroquin filed two motions in limine seeking to introduce hearsay statements from unavailable witnesses that Marroquin claimed supported his defense of self-defense. The first motion in limine related to a hearsay statement made to a police officer by a subsequently unavailable eye-witness to the altercation describing the altercation. Marroquin contended that this statement was admissible as a statement of recent perception pursuant to HRE Rule 804(b)(5). The second motion in limine related to a statement allegedly made by the complaining witness to a subsequently unavailable witness prior to the altercation, which the unavailable witness later repeated to other witnesses. Marroquin argued that the statement from the complaining witness was admissible as a statement of then existing mental, emotional, or physical condition pursuant to HRE Rule 803(b)(3) and the statement from the unavailable witness to the other witnesses was admissible under the other exceptions of HRE Rule 803(b)(24) or 804(b)(8). The trial court denied Marroquin’s motions in limine and subsequently sustained the State’s hearsay objections when Marroquin attempted to introduce the statements at trial. Marroquin was found guilty as charged.
On appeal, Marroquin argued that the trial court erred when it denied his motions in limine without providing reasons for its ruling on the record pursuant to Hawai‘i Rules of Penal Procedure (“HRPP”) Rule 12(e). The ICA affirmed Marroquin’s conviction, holding that the trial court’s failure to state on the record the basis for its denial of the motions in limine did not automatically require remand. The ICA declined to decide whether the first hearsay statement should properly have been admitted because it determined that any error in excluding the eye-witness’s statement would have been harmless. The ICA held that the second hearsay statement had been properly excluded because the trial court determined that the unavailable witness was not reliable and therefore the other hearsay exceptions of HRE Rules 803(b)(24) and 804(b)(8) did not apply.
Marroquin argues before this Court that HRPP Rule 12(e) requires a trial court to state its findings on the record when ruling on a motion in limine related to the introduction of evidence at trial and that a failure to do so precludes effective appellate review and therefore requires remand. Marroquin also argues that excluding the hearsay statement was not harmless error because it involves his constitutional right to assert and bolster a self-defense argument.