The death of “Peter Boy” Kema is one of the highest-profile murder cases in Hawaii’s history.
So when his father, Peter Kema Sr., goes on trial next month, how hard will it be to find a fair and impartial jury?
Peter Kema Jr. disappeared 20 years ago and for years, his parents have been the prime suspects.
But there wasn’t enough evidence until last year, when they were indicted.
KHON2 was first to tell you about a jury questionnaire that’s gone out on Hawaii Island to try and find potential jurors.
On Monday, we followed up with the prosecutors to find out the challenges they face with the jury selection process.
Deputy prosecutor Ricky Roy Damerville says it’s not just the publicity. Because the case involves domestic violence, that makes it even harder to find jurors.
The Hawaii State Judiciary sent out 500 questionnaires, which is the typical amount for a high-profile case.
Questions include whether they’ve heard of the case. If so, do they have an opinion on whether Peter Kema Sr. is innocent or guilty? Do they feel they can be fair as jurors?
Damerville says it’s okay if prospective jurors know something about the case, but the critical question is whether they can be impartial.
“If you have an overwhelming number of prospective jurors who said point blank that they couldn’t be impartial, then Houston, you have a problem,” said Damerville.
A lot depends on how those questionnaires are answered. Those forms have to be turned in by April 5.
If enough jurors can’t be impartial, could the trial be moved to another county?
“I would have to say no on that. I just don’t expect that being a problem,” said Damerville, “but anything can happen. You can always be surprised that you have to expect the unexpected to a certain extent, but I think we’re going to get a fair and impartial jury.”
Two questions were also asked to prospective jurors dealing with domestic violence.
In December, Peter Boy’s mother, Jaylin Kema, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify against her husband. During her court appearance, Damerville told the judge that Jaylin Kema did not get help for Peter Boy because she was afraid of her husband.
Damerville told us Monday that this issue makes it that much harder to find jurors.
“Domestic violence, people have very strong feelings and some have bad memories, bad experiences in their lives which can affect their ability to be fair and impartial,” Damerville noted.
Despite those challenges, Damerville says he’s confident that a jury will be picked within a week.
“I’m going to keep an open mind,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be as much of a challenge as many people expect.”
KHON2 reached out to Stanton Oshiro, Peter Kema Sr.’s attorney, but have not heard back.