Oral Argument before the Hawaii Supreme Court — SCWC-20-0000175
, Tuesday, November 29, 2022, 2 p. m.
STATE OF HAWAIʻI, Respondent/Plaintiff-
Appellee, vs. BRANDON FETU LAFOGA and RANIER INES, also known as Schizo, Petitioners/Defendants-Appellants.
The above-captioned case was set for oral argument on the merits at:
Supreme Court Courtroom
Aliʻiōlani 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 Ranier Ines:
Attorney for petitioner Brandon Fetu Lafoga:
Attorney for respondent State of Hawaiʻi:
Stephen K. Tsushima, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
NOTE: Order accepting Ranier Ines’s Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 10/12/22.
NOTE: Order accepting Brandon Fetu Lafoga’s Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 10/12/22.
COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Wilson, and Eddins, JJ.
Petitioners Brandon Fetu Lafoga (Lafoga) and Ranier Ines (Ines) appeal from the Intermediate Court of Appeals’ judgment affirming the Circuit Court of the First Circuit’s (circuit court) Judgment of Conviction and Amended Judgment.
Lafoga and Ines were tried by jury as co-defendants. After being found guilty of attempted murder among other charges, the circuit court sentenced Lafoga to an extended term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole with a mandatory minimum term of twenty years, another extended term of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, and an extended term of an indeterminate twenty-year imprisonment. Ines was found guilty of accomplice to attempted murder among other charges, and he was sentenced to an extended term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Lafoga and Ines present two main arguments before the Supreme Court. First, they argue that the semi-anonymous jury procedure, where jurors were referred to by number instead of by name, undermined their presumption of innocence at trial and impacted their right to an impartial jury. Second, they assert that the extended sentencing jury instructions were misleading. The circuit court asked the jury to pick between a “possible” and a “definite” life term of imprisonment, which Lafoga and Ines claim did not capture the actual difference in the sentences they were facing: life with or without the possibility of parole. Based on these two issues, Lafoga and Ines ask for a new trial and/or resentencing.
The State contends that the jury process did not unfairly impact Lafoga and Ines’s trial, because the circuit court took steps to mitigate any prejudicial effect against the co-defendants. As for the jury instructions, the State maintains that they were standard extended sentencing instructions for attempted murder. The State asserts that the law prohibits jurors from being instructed on parole procedures when discussing extended sentencing, and so the instructions were sufficient. Thus, the State asks for their judgments and sentences to be upheld.