New law broadens definition of first-degree murder in Hawaii

Joel Botelho (Family photo from KHON2's archives)

Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law Wednesday that broadens the offense of first-degree murder.

Previously, the offense has been narrowly defined and limited to rare cases in which there are multiple victims, the victim is killed by a hired killer or the victim was under the specific protection of the courts or law enforcement system.

With Wednesday’s signing, first-degree murder now includes circumstances in which the defendant intentionally or knowingly causes the death of a person by restraining and using that person as a shield, holding that person hostage, or for ransom or reward.

HB 1726 is called Joel’s Law, in honor of Joel Botelho, who was shot and killed outside his parent’s home in 2011.

“Up until today, Hawaii law has been very, very explicit about what qualifies for first-degree murder, and it is very limited and in very rare circumstances can one be found guilty of first-degree murder,” Ige said. “This measure broadens first-degree murder to include particularly cruel and brutal circumstances.”

“This is the beginning of reform,” said Nonohe Botelho, Joel Botelho’s mother. “When someone is brutally killed and maimed, dismembered, executed, we must address this in our law, and this is what Joel’s Law has been all about for me.”

Makuola Collins was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for killing Botelho.

First-degree murder eliminates the possibility to be paroled.

Other bills signed into law Wednesday:

HB 2169 Act 212 Relating to Social Workers

Clarifies the supervision requirements for the licensure of clinical social workers. This includes allowing the option to fulfill all or part of the face-to-face requirements through video conference service.

SB 2811 Act 213 Relating to Parental Rights

Allows parental rights to be terminated if the court determines, by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived as a result of sexual assault.

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