HONOLULU, Hawaii – In a shocking turn of events, House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro who didn’t even read the final draft of House Bill 819 killed Karen’s Law tonight without any warning to legislators.
“This is a slap in the face to me, my mother, and the citizens of Hawai'i who expect our government to rise to protect them,” stated Malanie McLellan, foster daughter of Karen Ertell, who was brutally murdered and raped allegedly by her 15 year-old neighbor, Vernon Bartley. “How many more tragedies do we need? How heinous do the crimes need to be before people care?”
Throughout the legislative session Rep. Oshiro never mentioned his intentions to kill the bill. HB 819 automatically tried juveniles that were charged with 1st Degree Murder as adults and sailed through the House and Senate with little opposition. HB 819 was supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
Although all other conferees were present, Finance Chair, Marcus Oshiro, missed five conference committee hearings and was not present during crucial discussions about the bill between conferees.
“One man was given the power to override his colleague’s informed decision and kill a bill that he never took the time to read,” said Rep. Kymberly Pine one of the authors of the bill. “This is just bad government. I am saddened for Karen’s family who worked so hard on this bill and I am saddened that a good bill could die with so much effort behind it.”
Karen's Law was not referred to the Finance Committee last year and has no direct financial impact. The Senate agreed with the last year’s House referral that HB 819 did not have a financial impact. Senators did not refer the bill to the Ways and Means Committee this year. House rules allow a bill to pass conference committee with at least a majority of chairs and managers present voting yes. However, since HB 819 was referred to the Finance Committee in the House as having a financial implication, this therefore gave Rep. Oshiro veto power over all House and Senate Conferees and killed the bill for reasons unbeknownst to anyone. Conferees were expecting to pass HB 819 out of conference committee today after agreeing on the final draft.
As the law currently stands, juvenile criminal offenders committing 1st degree murder are tried twice, once to try them as either juveniles or adults and once to try them for the actual crime. "Karen's Law" would have applied to Vernon Bartley who allegedly raped and killed his neighbor Karen Ertell in 2007. The Ertell family and neighbors waited 15 months before Judge Francis Wong ruled that Bartley would be tried as an adult. The community was especially frustrated with the secrecy of the family court that protected information about the crime and Bartley because he was under 18-years-old.
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KAREN'S LAW CONFEREES AGREE ON FINAL DRAFT
HONOLULU, HAWAII – A conference draft of "Karen's Law," HB819, has finally been agreed upon today by House and Senate conferees. They will reconvene at 5 p.m. in room 229 at the state capitol for the final vote. The final draft mandates that minors aged 15-17 be tried as adults in cases of first degree murder. The bill as written would have applied to Vernon Bartley who allegedly raped and killed his neighbor Karen Ertell in 2007. He was 15-years-old at the time of the crime. He was charged with first degree murder.
The Ertell family and neighbors waited 15 months before Judge Francis Wong ruled that Bartley would be tried as an adult. The community was especially frustrated with the secrecy of the family court that protected information about the crime and Bartley because he was under 18-years-old. The current draft automatically waives the juvenile to adult circuit court as long as the juvenile is not found to be mentally ill.