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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court — SCWC-15-0000439

No. SCWC-15-0000439 (Consolidated with SCWC-15-0000477), Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 8:45 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAI`I, Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. LAWRENCE L. BRUCE and JUSTIN MCKINLEY, Respondents/Defendants-Appellants.

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

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

Attorney for Petitioner: 

Sonja P. McCullen, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Attorneys for Respondent Bruce: 

James S. Tabe and Jon N. Ikenaga, Deputy Public Defenders

Attorney for Respondent McKinley:

Benjamin R.C. Ignacio

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 12/09/16 in SCWC-15-0000477.

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 03/01/17 in SCWC-15-0000439.

NOTE: Order consolidating SCWC-15-0000439 and SCWC-15-0000477 for oral argument and disposition, filed 03/01/17.

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

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

Respondent/Defendant-Appellant William McKinley (McKinley) was indicted for one count of promoting prostitution in the first degree for having allegedly forced the complaining witness (CW) to engage in prostitution from April 2014 to May 2014. Respondent/Defendant-Appellant Lawrence L. Bruce (Bruce) was indicted for one count of prostitution in the second degree for allegedly advancing and/or profiting from CW’s activities as a prostitute in April 2014.  Bruce and McKinley were tried as co-defendants in the same jury trial.

During Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee the State of Hawai`i’s (the State’s) rebuttal closing argument, the prosecutor argued that the evidence adduced at trial showed that Bruce and McKinley had both treated CW like a piece of property.  In the course of this argument, the prosecutor stated, “But she’s not a piece of property.  I mean, she’s somebody’s daughter, she’s somebody’s friend, she’s a mother, she’s a woman, she is a person, and she deserves to be treated properly[.]”  McKinley objected to the prosecutor’s comment; Bruce did not join in McKinley’s objection, nor did Bruce raise an objection of his own.  The circuit court overruled McKinley’s objection. The jury subsequently found McKinley guilty of prostitution in the first degree, and found Bruce guilty of prostitution in the second degree. Bruce and McKinley separately appealed their convictions. In both cases, the Intermediate Court of Appeals held that the prosecutor’s comments constituted prosecutorial misconduct, and accordingly, vacated McKinley’s and Bruce’s convictions and remanded their cases for new trials.

The State’s applications for writ of certiorari collectively present three questions for consideration:

(1) Did the ICA gravely err by misapplying this court’s opinion in State v. Rogan and concluding that the jury was enticed  to decide the case based on irrelevant facts?

(2)  Was the ICA’s analysis in both cases obviously inconsistent with its own decision in State v. Kiakona?

(3) Did the ICA gravely err by holding that McKinley’s objection to the State’s remarks sufficiently preserved the issue for Bruce’s appeal?