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State v. Kaneaiakala

Supreme Court of Hawaii

October 1, 2019

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRONSON KANEAIAKALA, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

          CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-16-0000647; CR. NO. 15-1-0108)

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

          OPINION

          McKENNA, J.

         I. Introduction

         This appeal arises from an impermissibly suggestive field show-up identification. Midday on Saturday, January 24, 2015, Mari Laraway ("Laraway") was walking with her minor son from their apartment building on Date Street to her car. As she walked alongside the apartment building, she saw a man crouching beneath the window of a ground-floor apartment. Once at her car, she looked up and saw the man entering the apartment through a window. Laraway called 911 to report the man's activity.

         Honolulu Police Department ("HPD") officers later found Petitioner/Defendant-Apellant Bronson Kaneaiakala ("Kaneaiakala") naked in the laundry room of the apartment building with items missing from the apartment, and they arrested him. Two-and-a-half hours after she had seen a man enter the ground-floor apartment through a window, Laraway met the officers on the street outside the apartment building. Kaneaiakala was shirtless, handcuffed, and standing beside a police car, surrounded by police. Laraway looked at Kaneaiakala and told the officers she was "almost positive" Kaneaiakala was the man she saw at the window earlier. After she had identified Kaneaiakala as the suspect, Laraway was asked to complete a suspect description form and she gave the officers a written statement.

         The State of Hawai'i ("State") charged Kaneaiakala with one count of Burglary in the First Degree in violation of Hawai'i Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 708-810 (1) (c) (2014).[1] Before trial, Kaneaiakala filed a motion to suppress Laraway's show-up identification.

         The Circuit Court of the First Circuit ("circuit court")[2]conducted a hearing on the motion to suppress. The State stipulated that the procedure employed by HPD was impermissibly suggestive. The circuit court found Laraway's identification nonetheless sufficiently reliable and denied the motion. At jury trial, the State presented testimony from Laraway, one of the residents of the burglarized apartment, and two police officers. The jury found Kaneaiakala guilty as charged.

         On appeal, the Intermediate Court of Appeals ("ICA") affirmed the conviction and, in a summary disposition order, held that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Laraway's identification was sufficiently reliable for admission in evidence and consideration by the jury. State v. Kaneaiakala, No. CAAP-16-0000647 at 2-5 (App. Nov. 7, 2017) (SDO). On certiorari, Kaneaiakala argues Laraway's identification should have been suppressed because it was unreliable and tainted by HPD's show-up procedure.

         As Justice Brennan stated in 1967, "[t]he vagaries of eyewitness identification are well-known; the annals of criminal law are rife with instances of mistaken identification." United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 228 (1967). In the half-century since Wade, science on human memory has advanced even further, and it has become widely accepted that unreliable eyewitness identifications are the leading cause of wrongful convictions.

         Recognizing this, in State v. Cabagbag, 127 Hawai'i 302, 313-14, 277 P.3d 1027, 1038-39 (2012), we held that when the trustworthiness or reliability of eyewitness identification is central to a case, trial courts must give a specific jury instruction when requested by the defense to focus the jury's attention on the reliability of the identification. 127 Hawai'i at 313-14, 277 P.3d at 1038-39. We also proposed a model jury instruction to address reliability concerns with eyewitness identifications, including thirteen reliability factors that a judge should consider including in a jury instruction. 127 Hawai'i at 314, 277 P.3d at 1039.

         By ruling that trial courts no longer had discretion to reject defense requests for a jury instruction regarding the trustworthiness of eyewitness identifications, we abrogated the holding in State v. Padilla, 57 Haw. 150, 552 P.2d 357 (1976), that a trial court had discretion to decide whether to give such an instruction.

         While overruling Padilla on that point in Cabagbag, we did not address another holding of Padilla. In Padilla, we also adopted a test set out by the United States Supreme Court in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972), for trial courts to apply to determine whether an eyewitness identification procured through an impermissibly suggestive procedure should be admissible in evidence. We held that when an eyewitness identification is procured through an impermissibly suggestive procedure, the trial court must evaluate five factors under the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the identification is nonetheless sufficiently reliable to be admitted in evidence. Padilla, 57 Haw. at 154, 552 P.2d at 360.

         The five factors are: (1) the opportunity of the witness to view the defendant at the time of the crime, (2) the witness's degree of attention, (3) the accuracy of the witness's prior description of the defendant, (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification, and (5) the length of time between the crime and the identification. Id.

         The thirteen factors we held in Cabagbag that a judge should consider including in a jury instruction regarding reliability of eyewitness identifications include the five factors delineated in Padilla for a judge to consider in addressing admissibility.

         After Cabagbag, in State v. Cabinatan, 132 Hawai'i 63, 76, 319 P.3d 1071, 1084 (2014), we noted that although field show-up identifications can be admissible, they are inherently suggestive. We cited to various United States Supreme Court opinions criticizing identifications of only one person presented as a possible perpetrator of a crime, including Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 302 (1967) abrogated on other grounds by Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314 (1987), which had stated that "[t]he practice of showing suspects singly to persons for the purpose of identification, and not as part of a lineup, has been widely condemned." Cabinatan, 132 Hawai'i at 83, 319 P.3d 1091. We held that under the circumstances of that case, where the eyewitness's testimony suggested her identification of the defendant in a show-up might have been influenced by suggestive procedures, even under the pre-Cabagbag discretionary standard, the trial court abused its discretion in denying a defense request for a jury instruction regarding the inherent suggestiveness of show-up identifications. Cabinatan, 132 Hawai'i at 77, 319 P.3d at 1085. But because the issue before us was the need for a jury instruction and not admissibility, we did not address whether trial courts must also consider additional factors when addressing the admissibility of show-up identifications.

         A defendant is denied due process of law, however, when the procedure used to obtain an eyewitness identification admitted at trial is "unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identification." State v. Masaniai, 63 Haw. 354, 362, 628 P.2d 1018, 1024 (1981) (citations omitted). In this case, we therefore address whether, in determining whether an eyewitness identification procured through an impermissibly suggestive procedure is nonetheless sufficiently reliable under the totality of the circumstances to be admitted in evidence, a trial judge must also consider factors we have held the judge must consider including in a jury instruction regarding the reliability of the eyewitness identification.

         In doing so, we set forth new rules that expressly overrule precedent upon which parties have regulated their conduct; therefore, our holdings will only apply prospectively to events occurring after publication of this decision, i.e., to admissibility determinations or jury instructions given after the date of this opinion. See State v. Auld, 136 Hawai'i 244, 256, 361 P.3d 471, 483 (2015) (citations omitted) ("The 'paradigm case' warranting a prospective-only application of a new rule arises 'when a court expressly overrules a precedent upon which the contest would otherwise be decided differently and by which the parties may previously have regulated their conduct.'").

         Factors to be applied in addressing eyewitness and show-up identifications should not differ based on whether it is a judge or jury considering them for purposes of admissibility or, if admitted into evidence, for purposes of determining reliability. As further discussed below, and to summarize, we therefore prospectively hold that trial courts must, at minimum, consider any relevant factors set out in the Hawai'i Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal ("Hawai'i Standard Instructions" or "HAWJIC") governing eyewitness and show-up identification testimony, [3] as may be amended, as well as any other relevant factors that may be set out in binding precedent in addressing whether, under a totality of circumstances, an impermissibly suggestive eyewitness or show-up identification is nonetheless sufficiently reliable to be admissible in evidence.

         We also prospectively hold that in addressing the admissibility of a suggestive eyewitness or show-up identification, trial courts must also consider the effect of any suggestiveness on the reliability of the identification in determining whether it should be admitted into evidence.

         Finally, we prospectively hold that when an eyewitness or show-up identification is central to a case or has been procured through a suggestive eyewitness or show-up identification, the jury must also be instructed to consider the impact of any suggestive procedure on the reliability of the eyewitness or show-up identification.[4]

         In Kaneaiakala's case, however, the trial judge did not err in applying the Padilla factors that governed the admissibility determination at the time it was made. As our holdings are prospective, we therefore affirm the ICA's judgment on appeal affirming Kaneaiakala's conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress.

         II. Additional Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Circuit Court Proceedings

         On January 26, 2015, the State charged Kaneaiakala via felony information with one count of Burglary in the First Degree, in violation of HRS § 708-810(1) (c) .

         1. Pretrial Motion to Suppress Eyewitness Identification

         On June 9, 2015, Kaneaiakala filed a motion to suppress Laraway's identification and argued the identification was obtained through an impermissibly suggestive and unreliable show-up. Kaneaiakala maintained that as a result of the process used by the officers to conduct the field show-up, there was an "inordinately high" likelihood that Laraway incorrectly identified him as the man she saw at the window. Kaneaiakala also asserted Laraway's identification was unreliable because Laraway (1) viewed the man at the window briefly in passing, and (2) she later "admitted she had bad eye sight and was not wearing her glasses" when she witnessed the man at the window.

         The State responded that even if the show-up was impermissibly suggestive, Laraway's identification was still admissible as reliable because: (1) Laraway saw the man at the window in broad daylight; (2) her view was not obstructed; (3) she "was able to provide at least a partial description of [the suspect] to 911" that was consistent with how Kaneaiakala looked when the police arrested him; (4) the show-up took place just a few hours after Laraway saw the man at the window; and (5) Laraway was "almost positive" that Kaneaiakala was the man she saw at the window based on his body shape, scruffy face, and short, curly hair.

         The circuit court held a two-day hearing on the motion to suppress on September 1, 2015 and September 8, 2015. Two witnesses testified at the hearing: Laraway and Officer Kanoa Hose ("Officer Hose"). The following relevant testimony was presented at the hearing.

         a. Laraway's Testimony

         Through a Japanese interpreter, Laraway testified as follows.

         Laraway lived in the 2904 Date Street Apartments on January 24, 2015. At around 12:30 p.m. that day, she left her apartment to walk to her car, which was parked on Date Street across from the apartment building. As she and her son walked on the sidewalk alongside the apartment building before crossing Date Street, Laraway saw a man crouched beneath the window of a corner, ground-floor unit of the apartment building. Laraway was about four meters away from the man when she also noticed that the window's screen was rolled up.

         Laraway could only see the side of the man's face as she walked by, but she observed the man had short, curly hair and a "scruffy face." She also noted he was "not black, but he seemed to be suntanned, Caucasian with light brown . . . skin." She did not recognize him. She took note of the man because "[i]t was quite unusual" for someone to be crouched there. The man was wearing a hat covering a portion of his face, but at the hearing she could not remember whether the hat cast a shadow over his face.

         When Laraway got into her car, which was parked facing towards the apartment, she looked up and saw the man's upper body was through the window and into the apartment. She immediately called 911.[5]

         On the day of the incident, Laraway spoke and wrote in English when interacting with HPD. Laraway had given the following description of the man to the 911 dispatcher: "a skinny black guy," who was also "muscular" and "stout," and who was wearing a white or light blue t-shirt.

         At the hearing, Laraway thought the shirt the man was wearing was long-sleeved. She also clarified that she did not describe the man's hair to the 911 dispatcher or tell the 911 dispatcher that the man's face was "scratchy or unshaved."

         After calling 911, Laraway drove to her son's soccer game. While at the park, at around 2:00 p.m., Laraway received a call from an officer, but did not further describe the man she saw at the window at that time.

         Laraway returned home at around 3:00 p.m. and saw four police cars outside the apartment building. The police told Laraway they had "captured the guy in the laundromat." She thought that meant they had caught the man she had seen earlier at the window. Laraway agreed to participate in a field show-up outside the apartment building sometime between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The officers did not provide her with any forms or instructions before conducting the show-up.

         The officers asked Laraway to look at Kaneaiakala, who was standing on the sidewalk, shirtless, handcuffed, and surrounded by police officers. It was a "clear day" and she stood ten to fifteen feet away from him. On June 24, 2015, Laraway told the police she was "[p]retty sure" Kaneaiakala was the same man she had seen earlier. She "got the same impression" from Kaneaiakala as she did from the man at the window, because of the "structure and the face and the hair color . . . the image itself, and also [the] complexion of his skin."

         Laraway admitted she did not see anything distinct about the eyes or nose of the man at the window, and if shown someone with similar body shape and complexion, it might have been hard for her to identify the correct person. She further testified, however, that she was sure that Kaneaiakala was the man she saw at the window.

         After she identified Kaneaiakala, Laraway completed a written statement on which she wrote, "I almost positive the guy was him." After identifying Kaneaiakala, she also filled out a suspect description form, checking various boxes describing the suspect as a Caucasian male, 5'6" to 5'8" feet tall with a medium build, dark brown hair, brown facial hair, and wearing a long-sleeved white polo shirt and long blue pants. She wrote in the word "scruffy" to describe the man at the window's facial hair.

         Laraway explained that on June 24, 2015, she had checked the box indicating the man at the window was wearing pants, but she now recalled the man at the window was wearing shorts. She also explained she checked the box for long-sleeved shirt, but testified that the man might have been wearing a short-sleeved shirt. She acknowledged she checked the box indicating the man at the window's height based on later seeing Kaneaiakala at the show-up.

         On January 24, 2015, Laraway had spoken English with the officers and completed all forms in English. At some point that day, she told the police that she has "bad eyesight" and that she was not wearing her glasses when she saw the man at the window. Laraway testified she was born and raised in Japan and grew up interacting mostly with Japanese people. At her workplace, she predominately interacts with ethnically Japanese people. During her past decade in Hawai'i, however, she has seen and interacted with diverse people, and she is married to a Caucasian man.

         At the hearing, Laraway also identified Kaneaiakala, who was present in the courtroom, as the man she had seen at the window.

         b. Officer Hose's Testimony

         Officer Hose testified that on January 24, 2015, at around 12:38 p.m., he responded to a "suspicious circumstances type case" at the apartment building. Upon his arrival, he noticed that a window screen of a ground-floor, corner apartment had been cut. He contacted the owner of the apartment, who arrived around 1:00 p.m. The owner looked in the apartment and identified missing items.

         Officer Hose left the apartment, but was called back thirty minutes later to investigate a situation involving "a nude male in the laundry room." When he returned, Officer Abe Kamanao ("Officer Kamanao") was in the laundry room with the man, whom Officer Hose identified in court as Kaneaiakala. The officers found a long-sleeved, light-blue collared shirt and a pair of black shorts near Kaneaiakala and instructed Kaneaiakala to put on the shorts. Officer Hose observed that several items the apartment owner reported missing were in the laundry room, including the watch Kaneaiakala was wearing.

         Officer Hose then called Laraway, who said she was returning to the apartment building soon. When she returned, he asked her if she would be able to identify the man she saw at the window and whether she would "be willing to participate in a field show-up."

         To conduct the show-up, Officer Hose had Kaneaiakala stand next to a parked police car on the street outside the apartment building. He had Laraway stand "no more than about 40 feet" away from Kaneaiakala, from where she had a clear, unobstructed view of Kaneaiakala. Laraway calmly and quickly identified Kaneaiakala as the man she saw at the window.

         Officer Hose testified that Laraway was never given any instructions and was never told that the person she viewed may or may not be a suspect. He denied telling Laraway that Kaneaiakala was the man she had seen earlier. He admitted that Laraway did not record her description of the man at the window until after the show-up.

         During Officer Hose's cross-examination, the State stipulated that the show-up was impermissibly suggestive.

         c. The Circuit Court's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Denying Motion to Suppress

         On October 27, 2015, the circuit court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law denying Kaneaiakala's motion to suppress. The court's findings of fact were based largely on Laraway's testimony of the events that occurred on January 24, 2015. The findings of fact included, among other things, that Laraway (1) participated in a field show-up, (2) recognized Kaneaiakala based on his build, body shape, complexion, and hair, and (3) told the officers she was "almost positive" that Kaneaiakala was the man she saw at the window.

         Based on those findings, the circuit court concluded that: (1) although the show-up procedure was impermissibly suggestive, (2) Laraway's identification of Kaneaiakala was nonetheless admissible because the totality of the circumstances, including the five Biggers factors, indicated the identification was reliable.

         The case then proceeded to jury trial.

         2. Jury Trial

         Kaneaiakala's jury trial was held from April 18, 2016 to April 20, 2016. The State called four witnesses: Laraway, Officer Hose, Kip Praissman ("Praissman"), and Officer Kamanao. Kaneaiakala did not present any witnesses. Laraway's testimony was substantially similar to her testimony at the hearing on the motion to suppress. At trial, she added that she lived with her husband and son at the 2904 Date Street apartment building on January 24, 2015, and that she had left their apartment that day with her twelve-year-old son to go to her son's soccer game at Kapiolani Park. Officer Hose's testimony was substantially similar to his testimony at the hearing on the motion to suppress.

         Praissman, a resident of the ground-floor apartment that was broken into, testified in pertinent part as follows. He had locked the apartment when he left it the morning of January 24, 2015. He returned around 1:00 p.m. after receiving a call from HPD that his apartment had been burglarized and met with HPD officers to identify what items were missing from the apartment and to provide a statement.

         A short time after the officers left, Praissman discovered a naked man standing in the laundry room of the apartment building and wearing Praissman's watch. Praissman immediately called the police. Praissman later identified other items the officers found in the laundry room with the man as items missing from his apartment. At trial, Praissman identified the man he saw in the laundry room as Kaneaiakala.

         Officer Kamanao testified that on January 24, 2015, he had responded to a call regarding an attempted burglary at the apartment with Officer Hose and returned that same day in response to a call regarding a naked man in the building's laundry room. Kamanao testified that, along with clothing and some of Praissman's missing items, the officers also found a kitchen mitt, pair of scissors, pair of pliers, knife, dental floss, and a screwdriver on the washing machine near Kaneaiakala. At trial, Officer Kamanao identified Kaneaiakala as the man he saw in the laundry room.

         The recording of Laraway's phone call to 911 on the day of the incident was also introduced and played for the jury.

         The jury found Kaneaiakala guilty as charged of one count of Burglary in the First Degree in violation of HRS § 708-810(1)(c). On September 20, 2016, the circuit court entered a Judgment of Conviction and Sentence ("circuit court judgment") sentencing Kaneaiakala to a ten-year term of imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of three years and four months as a repeat offender. Kaneaiakala timely appealed from the circuit court judgment to the ICA.

         B. ICA Proceedings

         On appeal to the ICA, Kaneaiakala argued the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the field show-up was impermissibly suggestive and Laraway's identification of Kaneaiakala was unreliable. Kaneaiakala also argued there was insufficient evidence for the State to convict him of first degree burglary because the State did not present substantial evidence that Kaneaiakala burglarized the apartment.

         In response, the State conceded the show-up procedure was impermissibly suggestive. The State argued, as it did in opposition to the motion to suppress, that Laraway's identification was nevertheless admissible because it was reliable based on the totality of the circumstances. The State maintained that based on the totality of the circumstances test set ...


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