State Of Haw.‘i v. Brooks

Decision Date22 July 2010
Docket NumberNo. 29567.,29567.
Citation123 Hawai'i 456,235 P.3d 1168
PartiesSTATE of Hawai‘i, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.Dennis BROOKS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtHawaii Court of Appeals


Dean K. Young, on the briefs, for Defendant-Appellant.

Delanie D. Prescott-Tate, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, City and County of Honolulu, on the briefs, for Plaintiff-Appellee.


Opinion of the Court by FOLEY, J.

Defendant-Appellant Dennis Brooks (Dennis) appeals from the Judgment of Conviction and Sentence (Judgment) filed on December 9, 2008 in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit court).1

A jury found Dennis guilty of Kidnapping, in violation of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 707-720 (1993) (Count 6); Robbery in the First Degree, in violation of HRS § 708-840 (Supp.2005) (Count 7); and Unauthorized Control of Propelled Vehicle (UCPV), in violation of HRS § 708-836 (Supp.2009) (Count 8). The circuit court sentenced Dennis to twenty years of imprisonment for each of Counts 6 and 7 and five years of imprisonment for Count 8, with credit for time served. The circuit court ordered the sentence for Count 6 to run consecutively to the sentence for Count 7 and the sentence for Count 8 to run concurrently with the sentences for Counts 6 and 7. Because Dennis was a repeat offender, the circuit court sentenced him to a mandatory minimum of six years and eight months of imprisonment on Counts 6 and 7 and one year and eight months of imprisonment on Count 8. The circuit court also ordered Dennis to pay restitution and a crime victim compensation fee.

On appeal, Dennis argues that the circuit court

(1) abused its discretion in allowing the State of Hawai‘i (State) to adduce at trial evidence of his prior convictions;

(2) erred in failing to instruct the jury on the included offenses of Robbery in the Second Degree and Theft in the Fourth Degree;

(3) erred in convicting him of Robbery in the First Degree based on insubstantial evidence; and

(4) erred in convicting him of Class A, rather than Class B, Kidnapping because he had released the victim, Tuan Vo (Vo), in a safe place.

Dennis asks that we vacate his convictions and remand his case for a new trial if we agree with his first argument or, alternatively, vacate his convictions for Robbery in the First Degree and Kidnapping if we agree with his second argument, reverse his conviction for Robbery in the First Degree if we agree with his third argument, and/or reverse his conviction for Kidnapping if we agree with his fourth argument.

1. Complaint

The State filed a complaint on May 30, 2006, asserting that William Brooks (William), Dennis, and Barbara Pichay (Barbara) had committed various offenses involving Vo. The State alleged that on April 16, 2006, Dennis (a) intentionally or knowingly restrained Vo with the intent to facilitate the commission of Robbery in the First Degree or flight thereafter (Count 6, Kidnapping); (b) used force against Vo in the course of committing a theft while armed with a dangerous instrument, with the intent to overcome Vo's physical resistance or physical power of resistance (Count 7, Robbery in the First Degree); and (c) intentionally or knowingly exerted unauthorized control over a propelled vehicle by operating Vo's vehicle without Vo's consent (Count 8, UCPV).

2. Pretrial Hearing

At the May 22, 2008 pretrial hearing, the circuit court stated the following to Dennis:

THE COURT: Okay. The other thing is that based on certain rulings that we have, those are the ground rules at the start. So say, for example, the fact that, you know, you have certain other conviction [sic] for things. I'm anticipating that both sides are going to be agreeing that that is not admissible, not appropriate to come into the trial.
But if you were to get on the stand and testify and say something like I've never been in trouble with the police before, no doubt the prosecutor-I'm not saying you'd do that, I'm just telling you if you did that the prosecutor would say, Your Honor, may we approach, and he would come up here and he would say I think [Dennis] might be giving an inappropriate picture of himself to the jurors. And so he then would ask permission to bring in your prior record which, in a situation like that, I should allow it. So that's called opening the door, right, that's the legal expression.

The State agreed that it would not introduce any of Dennis's prior bad acts or criminal history in the State's case-in-chief. However, the State informed the circuit court that in the event Dennis's counsel opened the door to such evidence, the State would ask the court to rule on the evidence's admissibility.

1. Vo's Testimony

Vo testified that he was a taxi driver. On April 16, 2006, he left for work, carrying about $450 cash in his wallet, $400 cash in his pocket, and 3,000 yen. He had his driver's license and bank cards in his wallet. He was wearing a Rado watch and a white gold necklace and had a cell phone with him. He had between $10 and $12 in change in the ashtray in his taxi.

At about 8:30 a.m., Vo picked up William and Barbara near Lanakila Park. William and Barbara asked him to take them to the Chinatown/downtown area to look for a friend. Vo recalled that William sat in the front passenger seat and Barbara probably sat in the center row behind the passenger seat. Vo drove downtown, but William and Barbara could not find the person they were looking for. They asked Vo to drive them to Waianae, but Vo declined to do so. William and Barbara then asked Vo to take them to Ala Moana. On their way to Ala Moana, William and Barbara saw Dennis walking on the sidewalk, and they told Vo to pull over and pick him up. Vo pulled up to the curb alongside Dennis, and Barbara got out. Barbara walked with Dennis, talking to him. Vo drove slowly alongside Barbara and Dennis for about two minutes before they got into the van. When William and Dennis saw each other, they bumped their fists together, called each other brothers,” and apologized to each other about something.

William, Dennis, and Barbara (collectively, the passengers) told Vo they wanted to go to Barbara's aunt's house behind the Lanakila Health Center. When they arrived, Vo parked and the passengers got out of the van. Barbara looked for money to pay Vo, but could not find any. The passengers got back into the van, and Barbara asked Vo to drive to an ATM. Dennis was now seated in the front passenger seat and William was in the center row, behind the driver's seat. Vo drove to the Liliha Foodland. Barbara got out of the van, while William and Dennis remained seated. When Barbara returned to the van, the passengers told Vo to take them back to the Lanakila area and said they would pay Vo there.

When they arrived at their destination, Vo put the van in park. As soon as Vo shifted into park, William put his left arm around Vo's neck and pulled Vo back against Vo's seat. William first put a knife about five-to-five-and-a-half-inches long to Vo's side, and then William put the knife to the right side of Vo's neck. Dennis held down Vo's hands. William and Dennis asked Vo where his money was. Either William or Barbara took Vo's wallet, and Dennis took the $10 or $12 in change Vo had in the ashtray in the center console of the van. William and Dennis took Vo's driver's license out of his wallet and told Vo that if he reported the incident to the police, his family would be killed. Vo testified that both men made the threat and Dennis, more than once. Vo was married and had two daughters. He was afraid and felt he had to do what they said.

Vo was told to put the van in reverse, but he was too shaky. William pulled and Dennis pushed Vo back into the center seat in the second row, between William and Barbara. Dennis got into the driver's seat. Vo saw the knife in the console and then saw William holding the knife.

Dennis drove the van from Honolulu to Kaneohe. In Kaneohe, Barbara got out of the van, removed the van's dome light, returned to the van, and sat in the front passenger seat. They continued driving and ended up in the Pearl Harbor area. At Pearl Harbor, the road was blocked by a military gate,2 so they reversed and proceeded to Waianae.

On the way to Waianae, William told Vo to lie down on the floor of the van. Vo did as he was told, lying down between the front and center rows. William, who was still holding the knife, took Vo's watch, necklace, cell phone, and money that was in Vo's pocket. One of the passengers took Vo's wallet. William told Vo to look at him, and when Vo did so, William punched him in the face three or four times.

At some point on the way to Waianae, the van stopped and William changed places with Dennis and became the driver. Dennis stepped on the back of Vo's head and on Vo's back, wrapped a tie3 around Vo's neck, and pulled Vo up with the tie, choking him. Dennis asked Vo something along the lines of “Who's your father?” or “Who's your daddy?” On the way to Waianae, Dennis also punched, kicked, and stepped on Vo many times. Vo asked Dennis to stop punching and kicking him, but Dennis continued to do so. After Dennis choked Vo with Vo's tie, Dennis pointed the knife at Vo.

Vo asked William to let him out of the van and told William to take the van. Vo told William that he just wanted to stay alive so he could take care of his children. William said Vo should not worry, William would not beat up Vo because William also had children. William stated that he wanted to find a place to get out of the van, but he did not want Vo to know where.

When the van stopped in Waianae, the passengers told Vo to stay down. Someone choked Vo with their hands, and Vo lost consciousness. Before the passengers left the van, they told Vo not to look up for ten minutes so he would not know in what direction they went after they left and not to call the police or his family would be killed. The passengers left the van,...

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5 cases
  • State v. Long
    • United States
    • Hawaii Court of Appeals
    • March 4, 2020
    ...the state of mind of [CW]." Thus, any risk of prejudice was reduced by the court's instruction. See, e. g., State v. Brooks, 123 Hawai‘i 456, 471, 235 P.3d 1168, 1183 (App. 2010) (the jury is presumed to follow the court's instructions). Therefore, the Circuit Court did not abuse its discre......
  • State v. Kazanas
    • United States
    • Hawaii Court of Appeals
    • August 29, 2014
    ...the alleged offenses in this case." Juries are presumed to follow a trial court's instructions. See State v. Brooks, 123 Hawai‘i 456, 471, 235 P.3d 1168, 1183 (App.2010). The Circuit Court's limiting instructions served to mitigate any unfair prejudice resulting from the evidence of the pri......
  • State v. Waterhouse
    • United States
    • Hawaii Court of Appeals
    • February 24, 2015
    ...P.2d 349, 358 (1997) (Theft in the Fourth Degree is an included offense of Robbery in the First Degree). State v. Brooks, 123 Hawai‘i 456, 472–73, 235 P.3d 1168, 1184–85 (App.2010). See also State v. French, 104 Hawai‘i 89, 93, 85 P.3d 196, 200 (App.2004) (“Theft, regardless of degree, is a......
  • State Of Hawai'i v. Young
    • United States
    • Hawaii Court of Appeals
    • December 16, 2010
    ...whether the evidence's "probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice." State v. Brooks, 123 Hawai'i 456, 470, 235 P.3d 1168, 1182 (App. 2010) (quoting HRE Rule 403). Among the factors to be considered in this balancing test are: the strength of the evidence ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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