Oral Argument before the Hawaii Supreme Court — SCWC-20-0000689
No. SCWC-20-0000689, Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 10 a.m.
STATE OF HAWAIʻI, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. CHANSE HIRATA, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.
The above-captioned case has been set for oral argument on the merits at:
Supreme Court Courtroom
Aliʻiolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
The oral argument will also be livestreamed for public viewing via the Judiciary’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/hawaiicourts.
Attorney for Petitioner:
Jon N. Ikenaga, Deputy Public Defender
Attorney for Respondent:
Brian R. Vincent, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 03/23/22.
COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Wilson, and Eddins, JJ.
This appeal arises from Petitioner/Defendant Chanse Hirata’s conviction for Continuous Sexual Assault of a Minor Under the Age of Fourteen Years in violation of Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes § 707-733.6. The ICA affirmed the conviction.
On certiorari, Hirata argues that this conviction should be vacated because the deputy prosecuting attorney (DPA) expressed her personal opinions on witness credibility to the jury during closing argument, which constituted prosecutorial misconduct and violated his right to a fair trial.
Hirata challenges the DPA’s remarks that the complaining witness (CW) was “believable” and “telling the truth,” and that the CW was “brave” and testified “consistent with a child who is traumatized.” Hirata also maintains that the DPA improperly told the jury not to believe his testimony, or the testimony of his family member witnesses, because “they have a motive to lie.” Because this case hinged on credibility, Hirata urges that the State’s evidence against him was not overwhelming and, thus, the misconduct was not harmless beyond reasonable doubt.
The State submits that the DPA’s closing argument remarks on credibility did not amount to prosecutorial misconduct. It asserts that the DPA’s remarks were not improper because they were supported by a summary of specific facts that, when examined in light of the jury instructions regarding credibility, supported the CW’s credibility and Hirata’s lack thereof. Further, the State agrees with the ICA that the evidence against Hirata was overwhelming and that any misconduct was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.