Amended April 13, 2016.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT. (CR. NO.
Defendant-Appellant: Taryn R. Tomasa, Deputy Public Defender.
Plaintiff-Appellee: James M. Anderson, Deputy Prosecuting
Attorney, City and County of Honolulu.
C.J., FUJISE AND LEONARD, JJ.
Hawai'i 233] NAKAMURA, C.J.
State of Hawai'i (State) charged Defendant-Appellant
Joshua R.D. Williams (Williams) with attempted murder in the
second degree of David Quindt Jr. (Quindt). At the time of
the charged offense, Williams was renting a room from and
residing with Quindt. The charge stemmed from Williams'
stabbing Quindt in the neck, face, and arm with a knife,
while Quindt was driving his sports utility vehicle (SUV) and
Williams was in the back seat. Quindt sustained injuries,
including a life-threatening 12-centimeter laceration to the
neck, a laceration from his nose down through his lip, a deep
laceration to his cheek, and a 15-centimeter laceration to
his elbow. Williams claimed self-defense, asserting that he
stabbed Quindt because Quindt had threatened to kill Williams
once the SUV came to a stop.
found Williams guilty as charged. The Circuit Court of the
First Circuit (Circuit Court) sentenced Williams to
life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
appeal, Williams contends that the Circuit Court erred in
" limiting and excluding" certain evidence he
sought to introduce. Prior to trial, Williams filed a notice
of his intent, pursuant to Hawaii Rules of Evidence (HRE)
Rule 404(b) (Supp. 2015), to introduce statements made by
Quindt before the charged incident that: Quindt had done
" hard time" in California for the crime of murder;
as the result of spending time in jail, Quindt had experience
with violence, knew how to fight, and learned how to fight to
survive; Quindt knew about " gang-bangers and
gang-members" ; and Quindt committed the murder, but
" got away" with the murder because someone else
" took credit for it." Williams did not claim that
he could prove the truth of Quindt's statements. In
particular, Williams acknowledged that he did not clearly
know whether, and would not attempt to prove that, Quindt had
committed a murder. Williams, however, argued that
Quindt's statements were relevant to show Williams'
state of mind and that Williams acted reasonably in using
deadly force to defend himself against Quindt.
Circuit Court ruled before opening statements that Williams
would be allowed to introduce evidence that he heard Quindt
say that Quindt had been convicted of murder, that Quindt
knew how to fight, and that Quindt learned how to fight in
jail. The Circuit Court excluded the remainder of the
evidence proffered by Williams. Notwithstanding the Circuit
Court's ruling, Williams was permitted at trial to
introduce additional evidence that Quindt said he had killed
somebody in the past but had gotten away with it. Williams
was also permitted to testify that Quindt bragged about
killing people and about the murder charge.
argues on appeal that the Circuit Court erred in limiting the
evidence of the statements made by Quindt that Williams
sought to introduce. We conclude that in light of the
evidence the Circuit Court ruled would be permitted and the
evidence that was actually presented at trial, any error in
the limitations imposed by the Circuit Court on Williams'
proffered evidence did not materially impair his claim of
self-defense and was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Accordingly, we affirm Williams' conviction.
and Quindt first met several weeks before the charged
incident. At that time, Quindt worked at West Side Tattoo,
was a body piercer, and was training to become a tattoo
artist. Williams saw Quindt in front of West Side Tattoo
wearing a t-shirt of a rap-rock music group of which Williams
was a big fan. They struck up a conversation,
[137 Hawai'i 234] learned that they shared an interest in
tattoos and piercings, and exchanged phone numbers. A few
days later, Williams learned that Quindt was looking to rent
a room in Quindt's house, where Quindt resided with his
wife and two children., Quindt agreed to rent a room to
Williams, and Williams and his four-year-old son moved into
three weeks later, as part of Quindt's apprenticeship to
become a tattoo artist, Quindt drew a tattoo on Williams'
thigh. After the tattoo session, Williams, Quindt, and
Quindt's wife left West Side Tattoo around 9:15 p.m.,
picked up Williams' son, and eventually went home. While
Williams took his son into the house, Quindt waited in his
car, a 1999 GMC Jimmy SUV, because Quindt and Williams
planned to drive to Fred's house. Quindt had agreed to do
a piercing for Fred, who was Williams' friend.
became irritated and felt disrespected because of the time
Williams kept him waiting. When Williams returned to the SUV,
Quindt and Williams began arguing and yelling at each other.
Shortly after Quindt began driving, Williams jumped out of
the SUV. Quindt stopped the SUV, Williams eventually ended up
in the backseat of the SUV, and Quindt resumed driving.
Quindt was driving, Williams used a knife to stab Quindt in
the neck, in the face, and in the left forearm. Quindt drove
into the Waianae Mall Shopping Center (Waianae Mall), Quindt
stopped the SUV, and both Quindt and Williams got out. Quindt
was bleeding profusely. Williams subsequently agreed to drive
Quindt to the emergency room at the Waianae Coast
Comprehensive Health Center (Waianae Health Center) in
Quindt's SUV. When they arrived at the Waianae Health
Center, Williams hid the knife he used to stab Quindt. Quindt
was examined by an emergency room doctor at the Waianae
Health Center, who stabilized Quindt's bleeding and had
Quindt transported by ambulance to the trauma center at
Queen's Medical Center.
Williams was initially questioned by the police, he lied and
said that he and Quindt had been attacked by three men at the
beach, one of whom stabbed Quindt. Later, however, Williams
admitted that he had stabbed Quindt, claimed that he had
acted in self-defense, and described to the police where he
had hidden the knife.
to trial, Williams filed a notice of his intent to introduce
evidence of statements that Quindt had made to Williams
before the charged incident regarding Quindt's "
prior bad acts" (Notice of Intent). The Notice of Intent
was filed pursuant to HRE Rule 404(b). The proffered
statements included references to a murder of which Quindt
had been convicted but later exonerated. The record indicates
that Quindt had been convicted of murder in California and
had served several. years in prison before being exonerated.
It was determined that Quindt's conviction was a case of
mistaken identity, and he was exonerated when someone else
apparently admitted to committing the murder.
Notice of Intent, Williams alleged as follows:
1. During the 2-3 week time period prior to the date of the
incident on March 10, 2012, while [Williams] and [Quindt]
were living in the same residence, [Quindt] would bully,
berate, insult, criticize and demean [Williams] about his
life choices, past history, lack of street knowledge, his
relationship with the mother of his child, his child rearing
skills, and his family. They would argue and at times,
[Quindt] would boast and brag about the following:
[137 Hawai'i 235] a. Doing time for the crime of murder
b. That [Quindt] did hard time in California;
c. That [Quindt] knows how to fight because of the time he
spent in jail and that he had to learn to fight to survive;
d. That [Quindt] knows about gang-bangers and gang-members;
e. That [Quindt] has experience with violence from spending
time in jail;
f. That [Quindt] " got away" with murder by beating
the charge__ because someone else took credit for it;
g. That [Quindt] did the crime but got off on a technicality.
to opening statements, the Circuit Court held a hearing on
the State's motion in limine to exclude the alleged
statements made by Quindt to Williams set forth in
Williams' Notice of Intent. Williams asserted that he
sought to introduce the proffered statements to prove his
state of mind in support of his claim of self-defense.
Williams' counsel argued:
[T]he things that I've included in my 404(b) notice have
to do with my client's state of mind and the things that
were in his head as a result of statements made by Mr. Quindt
that caused [Williams] to then be concerned for his personal
safety. So they go directly to his state of mind.
was no dispute at the hearing that Quindt had been exonerated
of the prior murder conviction. The State asserted that
Quindt was not involved in the murder and had maintained his
innocence; that Quindt's conviction was a case of
mistaken identity; and that he was exonerated when someone
else confessed to the murder. Williams, through his counsel,
acknowledged that Quindt was exonerated of the murder charge
in California after being convicted and serving three and a
half years of incarceration, when " someone's wife
went to the police to tell them that her husband was
involved, and that led to a further investigation. And then
later it was determined that Mr. Quindt was falsely
acknowledging that Quindt had been exonerated of the murder
charge, Williams' counsel argued that Quindt's
statements about the murder were relevant to showing
Williams' state of mind at the time Williams stabbed
Quindt. Defense counsel stated: " [I]t's my
understanding that [Williams] will testify that Mr. Quindt
claimed that he was convicted of murder, that he got off on
the charge, but the implication being that he may have done
it; he may not have done it." The State argued that
since Quindt had been exonerated of the murder, permitting
Williams to introduce the proffered statements about the
murder would create confusion and be prejudicial to the
State. The Circuit Court indicated that because Williams'
state of mind -- his belief " that Quindt [had]
participated in the killing of someone" -- was relevant
to Williams' claim of self-defense, it would allow
Williams to introduce certain statements by Quindt relating
to the murder.
parties and the Circuit Court then discussed the scope of
what Williams would be permitted to say about what Quindt had
told him about the murder. The State argued that Williams
should be limited to testifying that Quindt bragged that he
" maybe" killed someone. The State contended that
this would avoid the need to explain that there had been a
conviction that was later overturned, which the State
believed would be " too much for the jury to
consider." Defense counsel stated that she had no
problem with the State introducing evidence that Quindt had
been exonerated of the murder. However, defense counsel
argued that what was " swirling in [Williams'] mind
when he's deciding whether or not he needs to act in
self-defense" was that Quindt had said: " he was
convicted of murder" but " got away with it"
because someone else " took the fall" ; he did
three years of " hard time" ; and " to survive
in prison, you have to be able to take care of yourself and
State argued that references to Quindt having been convicted
of murder and then exonerated should not be brought up
[137 Hawai'i 236] because this would complicate matters
and confuse the jury. In response, the Circuit Court asked
defense counsel if the defense would agree to refrain from
using the word " conviction" and instead elicit
evidence that Quindt said he was involved in a murder.
Defense counsel responded that Williams would not agree to
that limitation because Quindt used the term "
conviction" when he spoke to Williams, which is the word
that was in Williams' head and one of the reasons
Williams feared Quindt. The Circuit Court then ruled that the
references to Quindt's murder conviction would be
admitted " for state of mind only . . . as to what
Williams was thinking at the time." The Circuit Court
informed the State that it could " bring in the fact
that [Quindt] was exonerated." The Circuit Court asked
defense counsel, " " [s]o basically [Williams is]
going to say Quindt said he was convicted of murder?"
Defense counsel responded, " Or. use the term "
murder conviction." The-Circuit Court stated, " All
right . . . that's . . . the extent to which he's
going to testify as to that at this point."
respect to the proffered evidence that Quindt said: (1) he
knows how to fight, learned how to fight to survive, and
experienced violence because of the time he spent in jail,
and (2) he " knows about gang-bangers and
gang-members," defense counsel argued that this evidence
was also relevant to Williams' state of mind pertaining
to his claim of self-defense. Defense counsel asserted that
during verbal arguments that did not result in physical
fights, Quindt would make these statements to Williams to
cause Williams to back down. Defense counsel argued that the
implication of these statements was that Quindt knew how to
fight due to his experiences on the street, namely,
gangbanging, and because of the time he served in prison.
Defense counsel stated that the defense did not intend to
" wallow" in this evidence, but noted that "
these snippets" popped in Williams' head and caused
" his alarm to go to something higher such that he feels
he needs to act in self-defense."
asked by the Circuit Court what the term "
gangbanger" means, defense counsel responded: " It
means that you were involved in gang activity, could be
involved in fights or involved in just criminal activity
having to do with gang membership. I'm not going to go
beyond the term 'gangbanger[.]'" The Circuit
Court observed that the term does not necessarily connote
violent conduct. Defense counsel then stated: "
[Williams is] going to use the term 'gangbanger.' I
can, I guess, on direct ask him what did that mean to you.
But at that --I wasn't planning to do that. I was just
going to be referencing the term."  Defense counsel also
asserted that the defense wanted to use the term "
prison" rather than " jail."
State argued that because the Circuit Court was permitting
evidence that Quindt had been convicted of murder, it was not
necessary, would be prejudicial, and would " open[ ] up
a lot of doors for confusion" to permit evidence that
Quindt said he was incarcerated or in jail. Regarding the use
of the term " jail" versus " prison," the
State argued that Williams' Notice of Intent used the
term " jail," rathet than " prison."
Circuit Court ruled that it was excluding the proffered
evidence relating to " gangbangers" because it
thought the term was " too general." The Circuit
Court permitted evidence that Quindt said he learned to fight
in " jail," apparently denying Williams'
request to use the term " prison."
respect to the evidence of Quindt's statements proffered
by Williams in his Notice of Intent, the Circuit Court ruled
respect to items 1.a. (" Doing time for the crime of
murder in California" ) and 1.b. (" [Quindt] did
hard time in California" ), the Circuit Court found that
these two items were basically the same thing. It ruled that
Williams would be permitted to elicit evidence
[137 Hawai'i 237] that Quindt said he was convicted for
respect to item l.c. (" [Quindt] knows how to fight
because of the time he spent in jail and that he had to learn
to fight to survive" ), the Circuit Court permitted
evidence that Quindt said he knows how to fight and he
learned hbw to fight in jail.
respect to item 1.d. (" [Quindt] knows about
gang-bangers and gang-members" ) and 1.e. ("
[Quindt] has experience with violence from spending time in
jail" ), the Circuit Court excluded this evidence as too
respect to items 1.f. (" [Quindt] 'got away'
with murder by beating the charge --because someone else took
credit for it" ) and 1.g. (" [Quindt] did the crime
but got off on a technicality" ), the Circuit Court
excluded this evidence. The Circuit Court had earlier
indicated that if Quindt admitted to Williams that Quindt was
involved in the commission of the murder, whether Quindt got
off would not be relevant to Williams' state of mind.
opening statement, the State asserted that Quindt ...