Sentencing postponed for police officer’s killer
By Mike Gordon and David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writers
Family, friends and fellow police officers of slain Honolulu police officer Glen Gaspar left a courtroom yesterday bitterly upset by a judge’s decision to postpone sentencing for the man convicted of shooting Gaspar to death.
Honolulu police officers were upset by Circuit Judge Karen Ahn’s decision to delay sentencing for Shane Mark, who was convicted of killing officer Glen Gaspar. One said the delay only served to prolong the Gaspar family’s misery.
Circuit Judge Karen Ahn’s ruling may have been unpopular, but two independent legal experts said it was the right decision.
Although a jury convicted Shane Mark, 29, of second-degree murder in December, Ahn ruled that the state must first complete a second trial on three charges that the jury could not agree on. That trial will begin the week of June 7.
The charges include attempted first-degree murder for allegedly trying to shoot officer Calvin Sung on March 4, 2003 in the Baskin-Robbins store at Kapolei Shopping Center.
Gaspar was one of six officers who had gone to Kapolei to arrest Mark in connection with an earlier shooting.
“I am disgusted with the Hawai’i judiciary system,” said Gaspar’s brother, Greig Gaspar. “I am disgusted with this judge. I am disgusted with this state. Justice has not been served.”
The prosecutor’s office would not comment on the decision, but city Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter told family members in the courtroom that the charges were “too serious to dismiss.”
During the hearing, Mark’s attorney, state Deputy Public Defender Debra Loy, argued that it was “inappropriate” to sentence Mark now because anything he might say could be used at the second trial.
Shane Mark’s second trial begins the week of June 7.
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“I do not feel he can address the issues of remorse at sentencing with a pending trial,” Loy said.
She reminded Ahn that when the jury returned its guilty verdict against Mark in December on the second-degree murder charge that she asked that sentencing be put off until Mark is retried and a verdict is reached on the three other counts.
At yesterday’s hearing, Ahn denied Loy’s request to dismiss the remaining counts against Mark. But she agreed to postpone sentencing him.
“I don’t know how I can’t grant the motion (to postpone sentencing),” Ahn said. “The law is very clear on this.”
Yesterday’s hearing drew about two dozen police officers, some in uniform and some not, including several who sat solemn-faced in the jury box.
Mark was led into the courtroom in handcuffs. He gave a weak smile and wiggled his eyebrows at friends and family who had come to support him.
Officer Tenari Maafala, president of the State of Hawai’i Organization of Police Officers, was frustrated by the ruling.
“It’s very disheartening and very painful, especially for the family,” he said. “We are definitely not in agreement with the judge in prolonging the torture of the family.”
He said criminals need to know that justice will be severe if they “take the life of a police officer.”
“You do the crime,” he said, “you do the time.”
Long-time Honolulu criminal defense attorney Brook Hart agreed with the judge’s decision. He said that Mark’s constitutional right to a fair trial “could have been prejudiced” had Ahn gone ahead with the sentencing yesterday and had Mark decided to speak on his own behalf about the shooting.
“It was entirely appropriate for the judge to (postpone) sentencing until a verdict of certainty is reached on the other counts,” Hart said.
University of Hawai’i law professor Virginia Hench agreed. “The man is already in prison and will be sentenced in due course,” she said.
Hart said the prosecution probably refused to dismiss the remaining charges because they are hoping to get a stiffer sentence on the remaining charges. Mark’s existing conviction for second-degree murder carries a maximum prison term of life with the possibility of parole. However, if he is convicted of attempted first-degree murder, that carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole.