Experts: Unanswered questions likely at core of acquittal in high-profile attempted murder case

The attack happened in Hirokawa’s rented apartment at Capitol Place after a night of drinking at a bar, where the victim worked and had met Hirokawa.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 3:27 PM HST|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 10:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After two days of deliberations, a jury on Tuesday unanimously found a man not guilty of attempted murder in the horrific beating and sexual assault of a woman at an upscale Honolulu apartment building.

Michael Hirokawa, 34, was also found not guilty of sexual assault and kidnapping.

After the verdict was announced, Hirokawa embraced family members, some of whom were crying uncontrollably.

“This was a very difficult case,” Hirokawa’s attorney, Alen Kaneshiro, told reporters.

“It’s been a tough two and half years. He’s hoping to get back to his regular life.”

State Attorney General Anne Lopez released the following statement after the verdict:

“While we are extremely disappointed in the verdict, we respect the process and thank the jury for its service.”

Hirokawa, who has been under house arrest, faced a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole in the November 2020 incident. During trial, he agreed that he caused the near-fatal injuries but said it was unintentional.

A jury also unanimously found Michael Hirokawa, 34, not guilty of attempted murder and kidnapping.

On the stand, he said the woman he attacked had drugged his wine with LSD and Ambien in an attempt to rob him and that he blacked out. He also testified that he remembers “snapshots,” including having uncontrollable feelings.

When asked if the missing element in the state’s case was intent, Kaneshiro replied:

“That’s definitely one of the issues in this case. It’s been our intention that Mr. Hirokawa was involuntarily intoxicated and we’re glad that the jury agreed.”

Prosecutors said the victim was so brutally assaulted after she fled Hirokawa’s apartment that she nearly died.

The attack happened in Hirokawa’s rented apartment at Capitol Place after a night of drinking at a bar, where the victim worked and had met Hirokawa for the first time.

During closing arguments, Kaneshiro said HPD did “shoddy work” because they failed to test his client’s blood and urine, which the attorney says would have turned up signs of LSD and Ambien.

Former HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy said investigators can be unconsciously biased.

“Police do sometimes overlook or advocate for the victim too much sometimes and it comes back to, you know, burn you in the end like this,” said McCarthy. “And for whatever reason whether, like I said, it could be sloppiness, could be just inexperience”

Defense Attorney Michael Green also said police may have assumed it was a simple case since the woman fled his apartment and Hirokawa was found asleep and covered in blood.

“If HPD decided they found some guy laying there full of blood, and they have a complaining witness that’s beaten to the way she was, it’s a closed door open and shut in their mind,” said Green.

Angelina Mercado, executive director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, urges other victims not to let this verdict scare them from coming forward.

“We, too are disappointed in this outcome for survivors, we know that they can be discouraged, but we really hope that that they continue to seek services and seek help,” said Mercado.