City and County of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle won his fourth - and possible last - term in the position during the recent election. While his courtroom victories are what he’s most famous for, he calls a surfing trophy and his car, a blue Mustang, his most prized possessions.
“It’s a fun and cheap car,” he says. “I’ve got the smallest engine in it, but it just looks like wind on wheels.” Not that he would ever know how fast the car goes, proclaiming himself an old lady when it comes to driving. “I’m painfully slow and I drive everybody around me insane.”
Driving habits aside, Carlisle’s career as the city’s prosecuting attorney began in 1997, landing him on MidWeek‘s cover on Jan. 1 of that year. He lists several changes in the position since he took office, but credits the office and city law enforcement for all headway made in keeping the peace.
“It’s part of what has become a very well-coordinated group effort,” he says. “I think when you’re all working together, the community has more confidence in law enforcement.”
Carlisle’s courtroom resume includes high-profile cases such as State v. Uyesugi, where the defendant entered the Xerox warehouse on North Nimitz Highway and shot several of his co-workers; State v. Arakawa, where the defendant, a Honolulu police officer, drove while inebriated and hit and killed a 19-year-old woman; and, most recently, State v. Lankford, where the Oahu resident was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Japanese tourist Masumi Watanabe.
“That was a difficult case to litigate because it took a long time,” says Carlisle, noting the lack of key evidence that made proving Lankford’s guilt that much harder.
Though the job is relentless and often exhausting, Carlisle maintains he still has passion for it. “I still enjoy this job,” he says. “It’s the high point of my professional career to be here, and I’m very fortunate with a bunch of really excellent deputy prosecuting attorneys.”
The 57-year-old still enjoys a morning surf session with friends every so often, saying the experience leaves him in good spirits. “I’m not a real talented surfer,” he admits. “But getting out there with guys my age - and old men, because they don’t sleep that well, get up early and surf early - it is just food for the mind and the body. So I enjoy it immensely. It’s like a second childhood to be out there.”
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