Close to a week ago, I got named on the witness list for the upcoming Kealoha trial. As explained in a recent article, the prosecution named me based on my personal relationship with Kat.
It’s hard to find the right words to describe being pulled into the middle of what is quickly becoming the most famous case in Hawaii’s history. More often than not, I’ve tried to not think too much about it. I try to avoid the constant stream of schadenfreude. The whole thing is often just surreal.
But after much thought, I’ve decided the only word to describe it all is kaumaha.
Kaumaha is a bit of an onomatopoeia. It sounds like what it is. It is a sadness, a heaviness. It is the full weight of grief and misfortune.
I met Kat around 2007. I don’t exactly remember how. I don’t have a memory for the details of how I come to know people; I just know people. I’m not terribly social, so I’m selective about the people I get to know well. I enjoy smart people and kind people.
Kat Kealoha was both.
Former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, leave the Blaisdell Center after the first round of jury selection Monday.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
At the top of their game, Kat and Louie were one of the most recognized, and I’ll dare say, well-liked couples I knew. Kat and I rarely went anywhere where she wasn’t noticed, hugged, recognized. She seemed to have friends everywhere. And people genuinely seemed to like her.
I certainly did. Kat was generous. Kind. Smart. Her personality was bubbly. And if there was some dark underbelly to her personality, I never saw it.
I never suspected a thing.
I should say here that I consider myself a pretty smart cookie. I usually get people right. And I usually can read people well, and fast.
I think that’s what makes the whole situation so hard to understand. The accusations are completely inconsistent with the people I know.
I consider myself an upright citizen. I’ve had one moving violation in my entire life. (I rolled through a stop sign once when I had to pee.) I’ve never been arrested. I don’t break the law. I just don’t, if for no other reason I think society works better when we all agree to behave lawfully.
The bottom line is that regardless of the verdicts, there are no winners here, only victims.
One would think that the chief of police and his deputy prosecutor wife are pretty safe company in this regard.
Then the accusations started. They felt outlandish. It all seems so far-fetched and so inconsistent with the people I knew, people I’d known for years. From where I stood, Kat and Louie were absolutely incapable of what they were accused of.
Then they were arrested. And I while I believe our justice system is far from perfect, it’s typically not totally off the mark. I didn’t know what to make of the initial charges. Then it just kept coming and becoming more outlandish and more shocking.
I can’t imagine that anyone is more shocked by the turn of the events than the people like me, who knew Kat and considered her a close friend, and cannot believe that the person we knew could be capable of what they are saying she did.
I’m not comfortable talking about what the FBI brought me in for at this point. All I know is that when the FBI calls, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you speak to them willingly and you tell the truth.
I’ve not done anything wrong, so I have no problem talking to anyone about what I know, which honestly isn’t much.
I certainly know more than people who seem to have made a name on presuming their guilt.
I may not be an attorney (I never took the bar, I went and got a Ph.D instead), but I do have a law degree, and two of the bedrocks of our judicial system is the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to due process.
I am the first to admit that the charges brought against Kat and Louie are horrifying. And as much as I have been their friend, I also firmly believe that if they are guilty, they should pay for those crimes.
If they are guilty, they have been completely reckless in destroying people’s lives.
And while it looks improbable, in the event that they are innocent, their lives have been completely ruined.
The bottom line is that regardless of the verdicts, there are no winners here, only victims. It’s unbelievably sad. And it’s painful, because I think we are only beginning to see how widespread and devastating the damage is.
Going into the trial, my hope is that we collectively find out the truth. Truth and justice have not always been bedfellows in these islands, but I believe that truth always finds a way to prevail. The truth is unyielding. It stands even when everything else around it falls. And the truth may be the only thing that could even begin to possibly bring the people impacted by this saga comfort or peace.
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Trisha Kehaulani Watson is Kaimuki resident, small business owner, and bibliophile. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii and J.D. from the William S. Richardson School of Law. She writes about environmental issues, cultural resource management, and the intersection between culture and politics. You can follow or contact her on Twitter at @hehawaiiau.