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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court — No. SCWC-14-0001300

No. SCWC-14-0001300, Thursday, July 12, 2018, 10 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAII, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. JOHN LESLIE GALLAGHER, 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:

Cynthia A. Kagiwada

Attorney for Respondent:

Peter A. Hanano, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 04/13/18.

COURT: MER, C.J., PAN, SSM, RWP, and MDW, JJ.

Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format  ]

Brief Description:

On September 15, 2013, John Gallagher went to the complainants’ residence, where he kicked their vehicle several times before leaving the scene. The State of Hawaii charged Gallagher in the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit (circuit court) with criminal property damage in the second degree.

Prior to trial, Gallagher filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude any evidence of prior incidents involving Gallagher and the complainants. At a hearing on the motion, the State contended that the sole issue at trial would be Gallagher’s state of mind and his intent to cause the amount of damage to the vehicle that ultimately resulted. Thus, the State submitted, evidence of the prior incidents would show that the underlying incident was not an accident, a mistake, or an isolated incident. Gallagher objected on the grounds that the prior incidents were not relevant and were unfairly prejudicial. The circuit court denied Gallagher’s motion, ruling that the prior incidents fell within the exceptions to Rule 404(b) of the Hawaii Rules of Evidence.

At trial, Gallagher’s renewed objection to the admission of the prior incidents was overruled, and the court issued a limiting instruction to the jury on the use of this evidence. The State then elicited testimony from one of the complainants as to four prior incidents when Gallagher went to the complainants’ home. The complainant testified that she had filed a total of six police reports against Gallagher, related her reactions to the prior incidents, and described measures taken in response to these incidents. Following the State’s case-in-chief, Gallagher testified that he did kick the complainants’ vehicle, but that he did not intend to cause extensive damage. The jury convicted Gallagher as charged.

Gallagher appealed his conviction to the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA), arguing that the circuit court erred in admitting evidence of the four prior incidents. The ICA affirmed Gallagher’s conviction, noting that in admitting the prior incidents the circuit court relied on the State’s need for the evidence to show the context of the relationship between the complainants and Gallagher. Because the circuit court determined that the evidence had high probative value and issued a limiting instruction, the ICA concluded that there was no abuse of discretion in the court’s admission of the prior incidents.

On certiorari, Gallagher argues that the ICA erred in concluding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted the four prior incidents because the unfair prejudice of such evidence substantially outweighed its probative value.