Retrial of attempted murder case moved from Kona to Hilo

  • JOEL WHITE

HILO — A retrial in a 2014 attempted murder case is moving from Kona to Hilo.

A court document filed Friday ordered 40-year-old Joel Hanalei White of Waimea to appear for a jury trial before Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 27.

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Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said Saturday the change of venue is because of “scheduling issues” related to the opening of a new Kona courthouse in early September.

“It was falling in the same time frame when the courthouse was moving (and) the court over there had a bunch of other cases,” said Roth.

On May 7, 2015, a Kona jury found White guilty of second-degree attempted murder for the April 17, 2014, stabbing of Jeremy Nicholas, then 20, at Nicholas’ Waikoloa home. The jury dismissed a first-degree burglary charge against White.

Kona Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra, who has since retired, granted the retrial after a hearing on May 29, 2015, in which White’s lawyers argued the court erred in failing to instruct the jury on extreme mental or emotional disturbance — also known as EMED — as a possible factor in the stabbing, and also for not allowing the jury the possibility of considering the lesser charge of attempted manslaughter.

During a week of testimony before Ibarra, witnesses said Nicholas was stabbed five times in the back and also received a cut to his throat.

White testified the stabbing was in self-defense, telling jurors he went to Nicholas’ house to retrieve White’s then-girlfriend Ahlea Jiles, who had fallen asleep in Nicholas’ house. White said Nicholas — who admitted in court to selling cocaine to White and others — called Jiles a “narc” and told White, ‘I’m going to kill both you f——rs.’”

Nicholas told jurors the stabbing occurred in his bedroom while he was sitting at his computer. He said White unexpectedly slashed his throat while standing behind Nicholas.

Attempted second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole upon conviction.

White, who is free while awaiting retrial, was also previously charged with first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping in an unrelated case earlier this year.

According to police, a 36-year-old woman who was being treated for injuries at Hilo Medical Center told officers on May 31 she was abducted and imprisoned for several days earlier in the month at a home in Hawaiian Paradise Park. The woman alleged she was beaten, sexually assaulted and threatened with a firearm while at the home.

Three women, 50-year-old Kahiwaokalani Recca Hodson of Keaau, 35-year-old Joanna Kawelo of Pahoa and 32-year-old Misty Kamelamela face numerous charges in that case, having been indicted on June 20.

White’s charges were dismissed June 13 by Hilo District Judge Charles Hite at the request of prosecutors “in the interest of justice and for further investigation,” according to court minutes.

He was not indicted with the others for the May incident.

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Roth declined to comment on White’s alleged involvement that case, saying, “It’s still under investigation.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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