State v. Loher, SCAP-24489

CourtSupreme Court of Hawai'i
Writing for the CourtOPINION OF THE COURT BY POLLACK, J.
Citation398 P.3d 794
Parties STATE of Hawai‘i, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Frank O. LOHER, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberSCAP-24489
Decision Date20 July 2017

398 P.3d 794

STATE of Hawai‘i, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Frank O. LOHER, Defendant-Appellant.

SCAP-24489

Supreme Court of Hawai‘i.

JULY 20, 2017


Peter C. Wolff, Jr., Honolulu and Craig W. Jerome, for appellant.

Brian R. Vincent, for appellee.

NAKAYAMA, ACTING C.J., McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ., AND CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE NACINO, IN PLACE OF RECKTENWALD, C.J., RECUSED

398 P.3d 796

OPINION OF THE COURT BY POLLACK, J.

This case arises from the nearly seventeen-year old conviction of Frank O. Loher for attempted sexual assault in the first degree. At trial, Loher sought to present an alibi defense based in large part on the testimony of his wife and his wife's son. Although the trial was anticipated to last between five and six days, the State rested its case-in-chief in the early afternoon on the first day of the evidentiary portion of the trial. When the circuit court informed defense counsel that the defense's witnesses would be required to testify that day, counsel sought a continuance to secure the witnesses' presence so that they could testify first. The circuit court denied the requested continuance, and, over defense counsel's objection, the court ordered Loher to either take the stand at that time or forfeit his right to testify entirely. As a result, Loher took the stand and testified before the other witnesses in the defense's case.

Following his conviction and his unsuccessful appeal, Loher sought relief in state and federal post-conviction proceedings. As a result of the post-conviction proceedings, the Intermediate Court of Appeals' June 19, 2003 judgment on direct appeal was vacated so that Loher could raise a claim that his constitutional rights were violated when the circuit court ordered him to testify first or not at all. Loher's case requires this court to consider whether the circuit court erred based on principles set forth in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brooks v. Tennessee , 406 U.S. 605, 92 S.Ct. 1891, 32 L.Ed.2d 358 (1972), the Hawai‘i Constitution, and Hawai‘i caselaw, and, if the court erred, whether the error is subject to harmless error review.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Circuit Court Trial

On August 19, 1999, Loher was indicted by a grand jury for attempted sexual assault in the first degree, in violation of HRS § 705-500 (1993) and HRS § 707-730(1)(a) (1993) (count one), and attempted kidnapping, in violation of HRS § 707-720(1)(d) (1993) (count two). Loher v. State , 118 Hawai‘i 522, 524, 193 P.3d 438, 440 (App. 2008), overruled on other grounds by State v. Auld , 136 Hawai‘i 244, 361 P.3d 471 (2015). The State filed a "Memorandum of Pretrial" on December 9, 1999, stating that the trial was expected to take five to six days. Id. On November 13, 2000, the State filed its "Witness and Exhibit List" identifying fourteen witnesses for the State. Id.

Loher and the State each filed motions in limine relating to the evidence to be presented at trial. Id. During the hearing on the parties' motions, Loher stated that he intended to present an alibi defense and establish that he was not present during the attempted sexual assault and kidnapping. Id. Loher's counsel represented to the court that Loher would testify at trial, but at various times he also expressed the possibility that Loher would choose not to take the stand. Loher v. State , No. 29818, 2011 WL 2132828, at *1 (App. May 31, 2011) (mem.).

The evidentiary portion of the jury trial commenced at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, November 14, 2000.1 The State first called Honolulu Police Department (HPD) Officer Oryn Baum. Officer Baum testified that on July 29, 1999, at approximately 3:43 a.m., she was dispatched to an industrial area at 2722 Kakoi Street. Once she arrived, she was flagged down by a female identified by Officer Baum as the complaining witness. Officer Baum stated that the complaining witness's halter top was ripped, and the officer observed a "kind of a scratch" on her back. The complaining witness described her assailant, the vehicle he was driving, and the vehicle's license plate number. The vehicle was subsequently identified by Officer Baum as belonging to Frank and Andrea Loher. Following Officer Baum's testimony, the State called an HPD fingerprint identification technician who testified that five sets of fingerprints were recovered from Loher's car but that none were a match to the complaining witness.

398 P.3d 797

The State then called the complaining witness. complainant testified that in the early morning hours of July 29, 1999, she was walking along Kapi‘olani Boulevard when she accepted an offer of a ride to the airport from an individual with whom she was not acquainted who was driving a red car. The witness made an in-court identification of Loher as the driver.

The complaining witness related that after the driver got on the freeway, she fell asleep. When she woke up, the car was parked. The driver then demanded oral sex. As she tried to exit the vehicle, the complaining witness described that the driver ripped her shirt and scratched her back in an attempt to keep her inside of the car. She then ran out of the car to a nearby pay phone, which she used to call police. The complainant identified pictures presented by the State of the alleged crime scene and Loher's vehicle.

Following the lunch recess, the defense began its cross-examination of the complaining witness. The complainant confirmed that earlier in the evening and prior to the incident, she fought with her boyfriend because he got into a car with three other girls, and she did not want to see him with the other girls. The complaining witness clarified that she was walking because she wanted to go to the airport; she believed that if she could get to the airport, she could obtain free airline tickets from her boyfriend's uncle who worked for an airline. Following this testimony, at 1:39 p.m., HPD Detective Earl Takahashi was called by the State and testified that the complaining witness identified Loher as the driver in a photographic lineup.

After the conclusion of Detective Takahashi's testimony, the State rested its case at approximately 2:15 p.m. The court recessed, and at 2:27 p.m., the court reconvened outside the presence of the jury. Loher's counsel requested a continuance until the next trial day on Thursday morning because he "had no idea that [the State] would finish [its case] this early," given that the State had "quite a number of people on the witness list." Counsel stated that he told the defense witnesses to prepare to testify on Thursday; he related that he tried to "make a couple calls" to secure the presence of defense witnesses that day, but they were not available. Defense counsel apologized but stated that "it's too quick for us to have to present witnesses under the circumstances."

The circuit court denied the continuance request, citing Hawaii Rules of Evidence (HRE) Rule 611 (1993) and noting that there was more than enough time left in the day to proceed with trial.2 The court stated that it would "allow the defense to call Mr. Loher to testify" at that time. Defense counsel objected, noting that Loher had a right not to testify and that depending on the testimony of the other witnesses, Loher may choose not to take the stand. Counsel further argued that the court was essentially forcing Loher to testify.

[Defense counsel]: ... the Court is actually forcing [Loher] to take the stand because now we have nobody to call, and you're saying, Well, we can call Mr. Loher, but as a strategic manner in planning for our case, he was going to be the last witness I call, and depending how it went with the other witnesses, we may not need to call him because we can get everything that we need through the other witnesses.

So, in fact, now that we're being forced to call him as first witness in a sense is prejudicial to Mr. Loher because he's being forced to testify when he, in essence, we had not decided fully whether or not he would testify for sure.

The court stated that it found defense counsel's argument unpersuasive because it was counsel's responsibility to prepare for trial.

The Court: The Court does not find the argument persuasive. The Court believes that it was the responsibility or is the responsibility of counsel to determine when witnesses would be available.

Defense counsel was free to discuss with the State the witnesses called and when they would anticipate finishing their case.

Defense counsel has hopefully prepared for this case, so should be aware at the
398 P.3d 798
present time what the witnesses that he intends to call will testify. And having prepared and having a knowledge as to what they will say, since they are the defense witnesses, then they should be in the position to know whether the defendant should testify.

The court also stated that defense counsel had represented that Loher would testify concerning his alibi defense and suggested that defense counsel's objection to Loher testifying that day was manipulative.

The Court: ... So the Court believes it is not persuasive that defense counsel should now argue to this Court, after the Court had denied his request to delay the trial till Thursday by saying that he does not know what his own witnesses will say and depending what they say, he will then make the decision whether his client's going to testify.

The Court would also note that during the pretrial conferences, as well as in the opening statement, the defendant has asserted an alibi that he was not present at the time, and that where the—his location would be during certain times defense counsel has also represented to the Court that his client is going to testify.

The Court is not persuaded by his argument and is concerned that this may be manipulative in order to obtain the relief that the Court had not granted.

When defense counsel requested permission to respond to the court's concerns, the court refused, stating that it was unpersuaded by counsel's argument and directing counsel to call Loher...

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12 practice notes
  • State v. Crow, No. 35316-8-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 9 Abril 2019
    ...because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 140 Haw. 205, 398 P.3d 794, 813 (2017).¶58 The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantee th......
  • State v. Houfmuse, 34394-4-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Septiembre 2017
    ...due process, because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 398 P.3d 794 (Haw. 2017). The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantee the ri......
  • State v. Houfmuse, No. 34394-4-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Septiembre 2017
    ...due process, because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 398 P.3d 794 (Haw. 2017).Page 19 The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantee......
  • State v. Temple, 34853-9-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Junio 2018
    ...because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 104 Haw. 205, 398 P.3d 794 (2017). The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22, of the Washington Constitution guarantee the right......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • State v. Crow, No. 35316-8-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 9 Abril 2019
    ...because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 140 Haw. 205, 398 P.3d 794, 813 (2017).¶58 The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantee th......
  • State v. Houfmuse, 34394-4-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Septiembre 2017
    ...due process, because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 398 P.3d 794 (Haw. 2017). The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantee the ri......
  • State v. Houfmuse, No. 34394-4-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Septiembre 2017
    ...due process, because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 398 P.3d 794 (Haw. 2017).Page 19 The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantee......
  • State v. Temple, 34853-9-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Junio 2018
    ...because counsel helps ensure that the defendant presents a defense that furthers a fundamentally fair trial. State v. Loher, 104 Haw. 205, 398 P.3d 794 (2017). The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22, of the Washington Constitution guarantee the right......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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