State v. Fields

Decision Date30 August 2007
Docket NumberNo. 25455.,25455.
Citation168 P.3d 955
PartiesSTATE of Hawai`i, Plaintiff-Appellee-Respondent, v. Reginald FIELDS, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.
CourtHawaii Supreme Court

Karen T. Nakasone, Deputy Public Defender, for defendant-appellant-petitioner on the application.

MOON, C.J., LEVINSON, NAKAYAMA, and DUFFY, JJ and ACOBA, J., Dissenting.

Opinion of the Court by NAKAYAMA, J.

On June 30, 2005, defendant-appellant-petitioner Reginald Fields ("Fields") filed an application for writ of certiorari to review the published decision of the Intermediate Court of Appeals ("ICA") in State v. Fields, No. 25455, ___ Hawai`i ___, ___ P.3d ___, 2005 WL 1274539 (App.2005) ("the ICA's opinion"), affirming the October 11, 2002 judgment of the family court of the fifth circuit,1 convicting Fields of, and sentencing him for, the offense of abuse of a family or household member, in violation of Hawai`i Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 709-906(1).2

The parties do not dispute that Fields was convicted on the strength of hearsay. In affirming the conviction, the ICA held that the admission of these extrajudicial statements as substantive evidence of Fields' guilt did not violate Fields' constitutional right of confrontation. During the pendency of Fields' appeal before the ICA, the United States Supreme Court decided Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004), a case that substantially modifies the standard for admitting hearsay evidence consistent with the confrontation clauses of the United States and Hawai`i Constitutions. We granted certiorari to consider whether the admission of the inculpatory hearsay in the present case violated Crawford. Subsequently, while the matter was pending before this court, the United States Supreme Court revisited Crawford in Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 2266, 165 L.Ed.2d 224 (2006),3 clarifying the distinction between testimonial and nontestimonial hearsay. Considering Fields' points of error in light of Crawford and Davis, we now affirm his conviction.

A. Factual Background

On the night of April 13, 2002, Fields was home with his then-girlfriend, Melinda Staggs ("Staggs") and a friend, Dave Richards ("Richards"). Fields and Richards were eating dinner when Fields received a phone call from Staggs' mother, Patsy Pepper ("Pepper"), who threatened to "com[e] over to the house to kick his ass and kill him." Pepper and several men thereafter arrived, and a fight ensued. Staggs was struck multiple times while attempting to protect Fields, who was wearing a colostomy bag and recovering from an operation.

Fields' landlord, Karma Lhamo ("Lhamo"), also lived on the property in a house approximately one-hundred feet away. Hearing Staggs yelling, Lhamo summoned the police; officers arrived fifteen minutes later and escorted Pepper and her friends off the property. No arrests were made, however, because Staggs refused to press charges.

Later that night, a second argument arose between Staggs, Fields, and Richards. From her bedroom, Lhamo heard "slapping sounds" and a "hard thug" that sounded like "somebody falling to the ground." She then heard someone (presumably Richards) yell, "Reggie, get off her." Phoning the police again, Lhamo made her way to the neighboring house, where she found Staggs sitting on her couch "kind of shook up, kind of scared and . . . half beaten or something."

Kauai Police Department ("KPD") Officers Karen Kapua ("Officer Kapua") and Elliot Ke ("Officer Ke") arrived at the residence to find that Fields and Richards had already departed. Staggs was crying and her clothes were torn. The officers also observed red marks or scratches on Staggs' chin, shoulder, and left cheek, and that she appeared intoxicated.

Officer Ke questioned Staggs, who informed him that Fields was upset with her about the evening's earlier altercation with Pepper. She stated that she was lying on the couch watching television when Fields approached her from behind, held her neck against the couch, and punched her on the left side of her face. Officer Ke urged Staggs to fill out a statement, but Staggs declined and instead requested a lawyer. She also rebuffed the officer's suggestion that she visit a women's shelter. Officers Ke and Kapua left without seeing Fields or Richards.

B. Procedural History

On April 29, 2002, plaintiff-appellee-respondent State of Hawai`i ("prosecution") filed a complaint charging Fields with committing the offense of abuse of a family or household member, in violation of HRS § 709-906(1).

Fields' jury-waived trial commenced on July 29, 2002. Staggs, the prosecution's first witness, testified on direct examination that she had "a hard time remembering" any of the events on April 13, 2002 and could not recall her conversation with Officer Ke. Nevertheless, on cross-examination, she testified about the incident as follows:

Q. Do you recall, Ms. Staggs, on this particular night, April 13th we're talking, David Richards being present?

A. I believe — yes, I believe he was.

. . . .

Q. And do you recall whether on this night — on this — or this evening whether or not you were drinking anything?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. What were you drinking?

A. Beer.

Q. Okay. Did you have a lot to drink?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that, perhaps, why you have no recollection?

A. Perhaps.

Q. Do you — do you under — do you recall, perhaps, any incident involving Mr. Fields' surfboards — surfboard?

A. Um-hmm.

Q. And might that involve a threat to Mr. Fields that if he left that you were going to break his surfboard?

A. I think that may have occurred.

Q. Okay. Do you recall laying on his board in such a way, I guess maybe it was between the table and the chair, and then threatening to sit on it that — something like that?

A. Yeah, I do remember that.

Q. Okay. Do you recall perhaps Mr. Richards trying to hold your wrists to keep you from slapping him, et cetera? Do you recall that at all?

A. No, I don't remember that.

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Nothing further. Thank you, your Honor.

Lhamo then testified for the prosecution. Regarding her second emergency phone call, Lhamo stated the following:

[DEPUTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY:] Okay. After you called 911 what did you do?

[LHAMO:] I went to go over and to see if [Staggs] was okay cuz Reginald and his company had left in his Suzuki. They left the property, and I guess Melinda was wanting to know if he was okay or not.

[DPA:] How — how was Melinda acting when you (inaudible)?

[LHAMO:] She was kind of shook up, kind of scared, kind of, you know, like what is — what is really going on here, you know.

The prosecution subsequently inquired whether Richards said anything to Fields during Fields' argument with Staggs. Her memory initially faltering, Lhamo utilized a police report4 to refresh her recollection. After reviewing the police report, Lhamo testified without objection that Richards told Fields, "Reggie, get off her."

Next to the witness stand was Officer Kapua, who recalled that Staggs "was crying" and had "a red mark on her chin and also a red scratch on her right shoulder" when she and Officer Ke arrived at Staggs' home.

Officer Ke recounted, without objection, the substance of Staggs' answers to his questions on the night of April 13, 2002:

[DPA:] Did you talk to Ms. Staggs?

[OFFICER KE:] Yes, I did.

[DPA:] And where did you talk to her?

[OFFICER KE:] She was in the living room at the — her residence.

[DPA:] And did you ask her what happened?

[OFFICER KE:] Yes, I did.

[DPA:] What did she say?

[OFFICER KE:] She said that she and Reggie got into a[sic] argument. Reggie was upset. I guess her mom brought some friends over earlier in the evening and the police had to come by. They were upset so they were arguing. And she said she was laying down on the couch watching TV, and I guess Reggie came up behind her and started holding her down, pressing on her neck with both of his hands, like, kind of holding her down on the couch. And then she also said that he punched her in the face, left side of her face, Melinda's face.

Upon further questioning by the prosecution, Officer Ke also described Staggs' appearance at the scene:

[DPA:] Can you describe Ms. Staggs' appearance when you saw her?

[OFFICER KE:] She — her clothes was [sic] torn at the front, she had — her face — her face was red on her left cheek was — and there were also abrasion [sic] on her chin and a scratch on her shoulder. She was also — appeared to be intoxicated.

[DPA:] And how was her demeanor when she was talking to you?

[OFFICER KE:] She was crying and upset.

On cross-examination, Officer Ke confirmed that Staggs declined to sign a written statement because she wanted to consult a lawyer. The prosecution rested at the conclusion of Officer Ke's testimony.

The parties thereafter stipulated to the admission of a report prepared by special investigator Leon Gonsalves ("Gonsalves") who interviewed Richards on July 2, 2002. In his report, Gonsalves related Richards' recollection that he was present when Fields and Staggs began to argue, and that Fields "never physically assaulted [Staggs]." Gonsalves noted that Richards "had a strong order [sic] of liquor on his breath, . . . was flushed, and appeared unsteady on his feet" during the interview. The report did not mention Richards' statement, allegedly overheard by Lhamo, telling Fields, "Reggie, get off her."

Finally, Fields took the stand and testified in his own defense. According to Fields, Richards asked to be driven home following the altercation with Pepper. Staggs protested that she did not want to be left alone and struck Fields after he insisted that she remain at home. She also "kicked in the door" and threatened to break Fields' surfboard. Fields testified that he and Richards nevertheless departed, and he denied ever hitting Staggs. He also noted that he was wearing a colostomy bag that...

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