Hawaiians last month ratified each of four constitutional amendments pushed by prosecutors that relate to important criminal justice issues, reports Slate. Three of the four took direct aim at the Hawaii Supreme Court, seeking to reverse unpopular decisions by eliminating the protections themselves. In one case, the court ruled that a defendant in a sexual abuse case should have been allowed to question his 13-year-old daughter about statements she made to her counselor recanting her story. In another, the court ruled that sex offenders were entitled to hearings on whether their names and backgrounds should be made public. The third ruling held that in order to be convicted of a “continuing course of conduct” in a sexual assault case, the jury had to agree that three specific acts actually occurred.
The fourth amendment represents a dramatic shift in power from courts and citizens to prosecutors. Instead of a grand jury or a preliminary hearing in which a judge or jury is able to decide whether there is reasonable cause to believe a given defendant committed a felony, the new amendment will eventually permit “direct filings”–a procedure that gives prosecutors the ability to send a felony case to trial just by submitting a report to a judge. Hawaii’s amendments are likely to radically change the administration of criminal justice, says Slate, and may portend a significant shift around the country, as police and prosecutors attempt to curtail state constitutional protections.