Hawaii Supreme Court orders new trial in 2016 attempted murder case

  • Anthony Beaudet-Close, right, stands with his attorney Michael Schlueter as a guilty verdict is handed down by the jury in July 2017. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Anthony Beaudet-Close leaves the courtroom after being sentenced in 2017 in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

The Hawaii Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of attempted murder, ruling that Anthony Beaudet-Close’s invocation of his constitutional right to remain silent was used against him at trial.

Beaudet-Close was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison after he was tried for the Oct. 28, 2016, assault of a then 39-year-old man near the Aloha Gas Station on Henry Street in Kailua-Kona. He had faced charges of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault.

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The victim suffered a traumatic brain injury and a subdural hematoma causing coma, and multiple facial fractures.

During Beaudet-Close’s summer 2017 jury trial, the state played for the jury a video of retired Hawaii Police Department Detective Walter Ah Mow interviewing Beaudet-Close about the incident. The video concluded with Beaudet-Close declining the detective’s request that Beaudet-Close reenact the altercation.

A motion for mistrial was filed, with defense arguing the video was “impermissible comment” on Beaudet-Close’s invocation of his right to remain silent. The circuit court denied the motion, and trial continued with the jury rendering a verdict on July 19, 2017.

Beaudet-Close subsequently appealed the to the Intermediate Court of Appeals. That court ruled in July 2019 that Beaudet-Close’s statements declining to participate in the reenactment did not invoke his right to remain silent and that the circuit court did not err in admitting the video.

Two days later, Beaudet-Close filed a timely application for a Writ of Certiorari with the Hawaii Supreme Court, asserting that contrary to the ICA’s conclusion, a 2010 ruling in a Ninth Circuit Court case made clear that when police request that a suspect reenact an incident, the suspect’s refusal is an unambiguous invocation of the right to remain silent.

Beaudet-Close further noted that in the case of Hurd v. Turhune, the prosecutor merely made reference to the defendant’s refusal whereas the jury in Beaudet-Close’s trial was shown video of his refusal.

Hawaii’s high court unanimously agreed with Beaudet-Close’s assessment of the Hurd case, finding that Beaudet-Close unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent when he declined Ah Mow’s request. The unanimous June 24 opinion was authored by Associate Justice Paula A. Nakayama.

“Because we are persuaded by the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation in Hurd, we hold that suspect’s refusal to reenact the incident for which the suspect is in custody is an unambiguous invocation of the suspect’s right to remain silent,” Nakayama wrote in the court’s opinion. “Beaudet-Close invoked his right to remain silent when he repeatedly indicated to Detective Ah Mow that he did not wish to reenact his altercation with” (victim’s name withheld).

The court also found Beaudet-Close’s right to remain silent was infringed upon when the video was “impermissibly” used against at him at trial in violation of article 1, section 10 of the Hawaii Constitution.

The high court in its opinion also pointed to State v. Domingo, in which the Hawaii Supreme Court previously ruled that evidence showing that a defendant invoked certain constitutional rights infringes upon those rights because a jury would likely infer the defendant’s guilt from his invocation of that right.

“In other words, in a situation where the prosecution publishes evidence that a defendant has invoked the right to remain silent, the controlling inquiry is whether or not the jury would infer from that evidence that the defendant invoked that right. If the jury can make such an inference, the prosecutor has impermissibly used silence against the defendant at trial,” Nakayama’s opinion reads.

The court determined that in the Beaudet-Close case, it was likely that the jury inferred from seeing the video that Beaudet-Close had invoked this right.

“Even if the jury did not infer that Beaudet-Close officially invoked his right to remain silent, the jury could have nevertheless made the inference, based on Beaudet-Close’s refusal to cooperate with Detective Ah Mow in this way, that Beaudet-Close was hiding something,” the opinion reads.

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The ruling noted that both the Circuit Court’s judgment and sentence and the ICA’s affirmation of the conviction are vacated.

The case has been remanded back to the Circuit Court for a new trial. No date had been set as of press-time Friday.

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