Hon­or­ing Her Son With Sports, Bills

MidWeek Islander (Windward Oahu) - - Front Page - By PAIGE TAKEYA

Each Jan­uary for four years, peo­ple have gath­ered from all over Oahu for the Joel K. Botelho Flag Foot­ball Tour­ney at Ka­neohe Dis­trict Park. It’s one way to re­mem­ber the Cas­tle High School sports star and speak out against vi­o­lence.

His mother now is push­ing to re­mem­ber him in a dif­fer­ent way — by pass­ing Joel’s Law (HB 55), which looks to change the def­i­ni­tion of first-de­gree mur­der in Hawaii. “Joel was ac­tu­ally ex­e­cuted in front of our home (in 2011),” Nonohe Botelho said. “The shooter told him to get down on his knees and beg for his life, and Joel did, and the shooter shot him at close range. Joel died in­stantly.

“We didn’t know this un­til months af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­pleted,” she added.

Makuola Collins was found guilty of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree at­tempted mur­der, and sen­tenced to life in pri­son with the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role. Once she learned of the cir­cum­stances of her son’s death, how­ever, Botelho wanted to know why the crime

was not con­sid­ered mur­der in the first de­gree. First­de­gree mur­der in Hawaii cur­rently ap­plies only in spe­cific cir­cum­stances, such as mul­ti­ple vic­tims, or if the vic­tim is a wit­ness in a crim­i­nal case. Joel’s death does not meet th­ese cri­te­ria un­der present law, though Botelho said that in 34 other states it would be au­to­matic.

HB 55, in­tro­duced by Reps. John Mizuno (DKal­ihi) and Jar­rett Keo­hokalole (D-Ka­neohe), seeks to “el­e­vate the mur­der of a per­son that is heinous, atro­cious or cruel to first­de­gree mur­der to bet­ter re­flect the sever­ity of the crime.”

“I can’t prom­ise, but I will try,” said Mizuno (at this year’s me­mo­rial tour­na­ment). “This year, we will try. I apol­o­gized for not be­ing a stronger ad­vo­cate in 2013 or 2014, but I said I will do my best to get a hear­ing (this year).” Mizuno spon­sored sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in 2013, but noted that only about 10 per­cent of in­tro­duced bills pass and be­come law.

Joel’s Law faces an even steeper up­hill battle. “This is a very big law in the books, and it’s re­ally hard to change, so we’re very as­tute,” added Mizuno, who is House Vice Speaker. “We know it’s not go­ing to be easy.” If the bill pro­gresses, he stressed that co­op­er­a­tion with the state pros­e­cu­tor and at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fices is cru­cial.

Should the bill get a hear­ing, Botelho said its pass­ing is de­pen­dent on public tes­ti­mony, writ­ten or in-per­son. “This is re­ally hard for fam­i­lies to talk about. It’s not a ‘club’ that any­body wants to be a part of,” she ac­knowl­edged. Botelho, who also is in­volved with the Hawaii chap­ter of Par­ents of Mur­dered Chil­dren, wel­comes more help on the cause and in­vites peo­ple to email her at nonohe96744@ya­hoo.com.

“I think we have a shot, I re­ally do,” Mizuno added. “We’re try­ing our best, and I’m hope­ful.”

For up­dates on HB 55, visit capitol.hawaii.gov.

Mas­ter painter and Zen Bud­dhist monk Jonathan Ming Ji works on a paint­ing Feb. 1 at the grand open­ing of Bud­dhist Art and Mind Cen­ter Gal­le­ria on Ulu­niu Street in Kailua. The fes­tiv­i­ties in­cluded free food, wine and prizes, as well as a cal­lig­ra­phy demon­stra­tion and read­ings on soul heal­ing. Photo by Bodie Collins, bcollins@mid­week.com.

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