Getting To Know Faces On Fences

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - September 01, 2010

I apologize. I was harsh. In this space last week, I called the members of the City Council “ninnies” because they established the special election for mayor and city prosecutor to coincide with Primary Election day, Sept. 18 - just 60 days after the candidate filing deadline. That doesn’t give the voters time to learn much about the mayoral and prosecutor candidates, save what their faces look like on those big, full-color signs found plastered to fences at every city intersection. Thus, in a non-partisan election, it lends enormous advantage to the candidate with the greatest name recognition.

In the prosecutor’s race, that advantage may go to Keith Kaneshiro. Kaneshiro, a Farrington High School, University of Hawaii and California Western School of Law grad served two terms as prosecuting attorney from 1989 to 1996. He chose not to run for re-election, thus leaving the way for Peter Carlisle to win the first of his four terms. Kaneshiro also did a stint as state public safety director in charge of the prison system under Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Kaneshiro told KITV’s Mahealani Richardson last week that he wants his old job back because the state faces “a critical time that calls for experienced leadership. We have public safety problems - the biggest being drugs.” Aformer deputy prosecutor credits Kaneshiro with establishing “vertical prosecution” - the appointment of a prosecutor who would follow a case from charging through trial, thus easing the trauma of victims retelling their stories to different prosecutors at different stages of the case. Kaneshiro also is praised for establishing special domestic violence and sexual abuse units (the latter of which was disbanded by Carlisle).

The choice of the staff in the prosecutor’s office appears to be Franklin Don Pacarro. A graduate of Saint Louis High School, UH and William S. Richardson Law School, Pacarro - currently in his 24th year in the

Prosecutor’s Office - is now the senior deputy prosecuting attorney in charge of the Trials Division, the largest unit in the office.

“He’s a true prosecutor,” says one of his former colleagues. “It’s the only job he’s ever done. Everyone in the office respects him. He knows himself, and he gets along with people. He’s willing to try any case out there.” His former boss shares the staff’s admiration. Said Carlisle in endorsing Pacarro: “He’s tried as many murder cases as I have (40 to be exact, 21 of which ended with life sentences). He knows how to work and supervise at the same time.”

Says another of his former colleagues: “Donny’s really good in trial. And he’s a very funny guy. It’s his time.” SHOPO, the police union, endorsed Pacarro.

Darwin Ching is the third smiling pros-ecutor’s face on city fences. A UH graduate in education, Ching taught social studies at Kaimuki Intermediate School before entering Richardson School of Law and graduating with its first class. Ching spent two years as a deputy state attorney general before a seven-year stint in the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office in the 1980s. There he specialized in white-collar crime.

In 1988, Ching went into private practice, won a seat on the school board and most recently served three years as director of Labor and Industrial Relations for the state of Hawaii.

Ching has written that he wants to “redefine the role of prosecutor.” Despite data that shows Honolulu to be “the safest big city in America,” Ching points to repeat offenders, unsolved crimes and the enduring drug epidemic as signs of prosecutorial failure.

“We need a proactive approach,” Ching contends, “to the broken windows theory: If you don’t stop the small crimes it grows and encourages the larger crimes. We need to get the criminals before they become hardened.”

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