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State v. Matuu

Supreme Court of Hawaii

June 28, 2019

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEAN VICTOR MATUU, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

          CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-16-0000571; CR. NO. 15-1-0128)

          Jon N. Ikenaga for petitioner

          Stephen K. Tsushima for respondent

          RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.

          OPINION

          McKENNA, J.

         I. Introduction

         On April 29, 2016, a jury convicted Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant Dean Victor Matuu ("Matuu"), who had been indicted on charges of Murder in the Second Degree in violation of Hawai'i Revised Statutes ("HRS") §§ 701.5 and 706-656 (2014), of the lesser included offense of Assault in the First Degree, HRS § 707-710 (2014), for stabbing his cousin Frank Kapesi ("Frank") on January 25, 2015 at a home Matuu and Frank shared with other family members.

         This appeal arises from Matuu's challenge that his conviction was not supported by substantial evidence and that the circuit court's jury instructions were prejudicially erroneous or misleading. The ICA affirmed the Circuit Court of the First Circuit's ("circuit court['s]") Judgment of Conviction and Sentence, [1] concluding in relevant part that there was substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict and that the jury instructions, when viewed as a whole, were not prejudicially insufficient, erroneous, inconsistent, or misleading. See State v. Matuu, No. CAAP-16-571 (App. Sep. 29, 2017) (SDO).

         For the following reasons, the ICA correctly concluded that Matuu's conviction on the lesser included offense of Assault in the First Degree was supported by substantial evidence and that the circuit court's jury instructions, as a whole, were not prejudicially erroneous or misleading. However, the basis upon which the ICA had concluded "the [circuit] court sufficiently instructed the jury regarding unanimity" and that therefore "[t]he additional unanimity instruction requested by Matuu was unnecessary," Matuu, SDO at 10-11, is erroneous. The general unanimity instruction as to the elements, cited to by the ICA, did not include the requirement that the prosecution negative justification defenses as an element of the offense. Nevertheless, the circuit court's justification instructions and the general "unanimous verdict" instruction did require for a conviction jury unanimity that the prosecution meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that it negatived Matuu's justification defenses. The justification instruction made clear that the prosecution had the burden of disproving the self-defense and defense-of-other defenses beyond a reasonable doubt, and the general unanimous verdict instruction made clear that the verdict had to be unanimous, which would include the prosecution's burden to negative the defenses beyond a reasonable doubt.

         Accordingly, although the ICA erred in concluding that the elements instruction addressed the unanimity required to disprove the justification defenses, the instructions as a whole were not insufficient, erroneous, inconsistent, or misleading. We therefore affirm the ICA's Judgment on Appeal that affirms the circuit court's Judgment of Conviction and Sentence. The requirement of unanimity beyond a reasonable doubt as to the negativing defenses element would have been much clearer to the jury if the justification defense instructions had specifically included the unanimity requirement. We therefore provide guidance that circuit courts should do so in the future.

         II. Background

         A. Factual Background

         From 2013 when Matuu was seventeen years old, he shared a home with his cousins, Frank[2] and Kapesi Kapesi, and two uncles. Matuu and Frank shared a living space, which was separated by a chest of drawers, television set, other furniture, and a tarp.

         Frank was often "high" on drugs. Additionally, he had been belligerent with other family members in the past. Testimony regarding three instances between 2013 and 2014 of Frank's belligerent behavior were provided at trial.

         First, during a family party in 2013 while Kapesi was dancing to music, Frank punched Kapesi in the face for "no reason," requiring family members to take Kapesi to a hospital for stitches. The incident caused Matuu, who was still in high school at the time, to fear Frank as he "kn[e]w for sure that [Frank] [could] do that to anybody and to me, too."

         Second, in November 2014, Frank directly accosted Matuu after Matuu returned from playing basketball, telling Matuu, "I going beat you up." Nothing came of the incident as Matuu, who did not know why Frank was mad, told Frank he did not want to fight and then returned to the park.

         Third, in December 2014, after hearing a sudden "crashing in front of the garage" as if "something broke," Matuu came out of his room and saw one of his uncles get up from the sidewalk as Frank walked away. The incident scared Matuu.

         In the afternoon of January 23, 2015, when Matuu returned home around three or four o'clock, it was apparent to Matuu that Frank was high on drugs. Later, without interacting with Frank, Matuu helped an uncle's girlfriend prepare a meal in a slow cooker. Matuu then returned to his room.

         Around six in the evening after drinking one or two shots of Ciroc[3] with Kapesi, Matuu went to a friend's house down the road and smoked some marijuana. Matuu returned home around four or five in the morning on January 24, 2015.

         Upon returning home, Matuu went to the kitchen to scoop food out of the slow cooker. According to Matuu, as he was doing so, Frank accosted him:

[T]hat's when all of a sudden Mr. Frank Kapesi . . . approached me over here, and I seen him with my side -- my side vision, and he came to me, and he was like, "Oh, you fucka. Why you gotta come and eat all the food? Why you gotta eat the food for?" I was looking at him. "Bro, I'm not eating all the food. There's still food in there. I made this food. I helped somebody make this food." But, no, he got angry at me. I don't even know what I did to him, but he got mad. After I was making the food, he was still approaching me. "Fucka, I telling you why you gotta eat all the food?"

         Matuu then retreated to his room, but Frank followed him and kept yelling at him. According to Matuu,

he was telling me, "Oh, you don't hear me, you fucka?" I was telling him, "Bro, I'm not even -- I'm not even trying to argue with you." I'm just trying to make my food. I was feeling good, buzzing, and I wanted to have a good time because I just came from a friend's house. And after that, he was still yelling at me. "Oh, you fucka. Fuck you. I going beat you up and I'll put you in the hospital." And after that, I was like, "Bro." Then I came around. Came around, put my plate on the stool, came around and I stand right here. And I was telling him -- I was trying to tell him nicely, trying to calm him down, trying to kiss ass because I know he can hurt me, or he can beat me up. I was telling him, "Bro, why you gotta - why you gotta yell at me? Why you gotta -- why you gotta say this kind of stuff to me?" But, no, he didn't -- he wasn't even calm down. He was already mad at me.

         Matuu was "scared" during the verbal confrontation. Matuu surmised that Frank must have seen that Matuu was fearful and began punching Matuu. At first, Matuu blocked Frank's punches; ultimately Matuu grabbed and wrestled with Frank. While they wrestled, Matuu thought that Frank "was gonna beat me up because he was telling me he was going to put me in the hospital." Matuu also "was hoping that [Frank] wouldn't get mad," but Frank nevertheless "was getting mad" while they wrestled.

         Kapesi, who had heard Matuu and Frank argue about the food, came out of his room when he heard something break. When Kapesi found them wrestling on top of each other near Frank's bed, he "jumped in . . . to break them apart." According to Kapesi, Frank grabbed Kapesi, slammed him to the ground where he lost his breath, and was on top of, but did not punch, Kapesi.

         In the meantime, Matuu was "scared" when Frank had slammed Kapesi to the ground. According to Matuu, Frank was punching Kapesi. Matuu thought that Frank would come after him when Frank was "done with" Kapesi, and therefore Matuu needed to "protect[] himself." Thus, when Matuu had "br[oken] free" while Frank was on top of Kapesi, he went to the kitchen and grabbed a steak knife.

         According to Matuu, when he came back from the kitchen, Frank was still on Kapesi, so Matuu stabbed Frank once "on the side" to "stop him" because he knew Frank was strong and violent. After stabbing Frank, Matuu said to Frank: "I told you, bro. I told you to stop, but you was pushing me, and you was bothering me, and you was telling me you was going beat me up and put me in the hospital."

         However, according to Kapesi, after he got his wind back, he stood between Matuu and Frank and yelled, "Stop already. Enough." Kapesi saw Matuu return "fast" from the kitchen area. Kapesi then put his hand up to stop Matuu from swinging at Frank and received a cut on his hand. Kapesi was in shock, tended to his cut for about thirty seconds, and the "next thing [he] knew, Frank was on the ground" gasping for air.

         An autopsy of Frank's body showed multiple blunt force injuries, four stab wounds of the torso, and two incised wounds, i.e., wounds that are longer on the surface of the skin than they are deep. A knife blade was found within a wound track that perforated the left lung and the pulmonary artery. Another knife blade was found at the scene near Frank's body, although Matuu testified that he recalled grabbing only one knife. A toxicology report showed that methamphetamine and amphetamine were present in Frank's blood.

         B. Procedural Background

         Opening statements were made on April 26, 2016, and trial continued on April 28 and 29, 2016. After closing arguments, the jury was instructed in relevant part to "consider all of the instructions as a whole and consider each instruction in light of all of the others"; to "presume the defendant is innocent of the charge against him" as "the prosecution has the duty of proving every material element of the offense charged against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt"; and that "[i]n order for the prosecution to prove an element, all twelve jurors must unanimously agree that the same act has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

         The jury was then instructed on the "material elements" of Murder in the Second Degree and all of its included offenses, "each of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt." The circuit court further instructed that "[s]elf- defense is a defense to the charge of Murder in the Second Degree and all of its included offenses."[4] Specifically:

Self-defense involves consideration of two issues. First, you must determine whether the defendant did or did not use "deadly force." Second, you must determine whether the force used was justified. The burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used by the defendant was not justified. If the prosecution does not meet its burden, then you must find the defendant not guilty.
. . . .
If you determine that the defendant used "deadly force," then you are to proceed to the section in this instruction entitled "Deadly Force Used." If you determine that the defendant did not use "deadly force," then you are to proceed to the section in this instruction entitled "Deadly Force Not Used." You must then follow the law in the applicable section to determine the second issue, which is whether the force used by the defendant was justified.

         (Emphasis added.) The circuit court similarly instructed that "[d]efense[-]of[-]others is a defense to the charge of Murder in the Second Degree and all of its included offenses," and gave similar instructions regarding the "issues" the jury was to consider.[5] The circuit court also instructed that "[a] verdict must represent the considered judgment of each juror, and in order to reach a verdict, it is necessary that each juror agree thereto. In other words, your verdict must be unanimous."

         Matuu's proposed self-defense instruction, which was rejected by the circuit court, differed in relevant part from the circuit court's given instruction, as it had proposed to clearly instruct the jury that its determination as to whether the defendant used "deadly force" be unanimous by adding the following underlined language:

If you unanimously determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used "deadly force," then you are to proceed to the section in this instruction entitled "Deadly Force Used." If you determine that the defendant did not use "deadly force," or are unable to reach unanimous agreement on this issue, then you are to proceed to the section in this instruction entitled "Deadly Force Not Used." You must then follow the law in the applicable section to determine the second issue, which is whether the force used by the defendant was justified.

         On April 29, 2016, a jury convicted Matuu of the lesser included offense of Assault in the First Degree, a violation of HRS § 707-710.[6] He was sentenced to five years of incarceration as a young adult defendant and ordered to pay restitution and fees.

         C. Appeal to the ICA

         Matuu timely filed a Notice of Appeal to the ICA, and presented two points of error:

A. There was no substantial evidence to support Matuu's conviction where the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt facts ...

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