Joe Kahahawai
1909 – 1932
Albert Ian Schweitzer
Joe Kahahawai was Native Hawaiian and born on the island of Maui. Later his family moved to Honolulu and he attended St. Louis High School on a football scholarship. He joined the Territorial National Guard and became a boxer for his unit, the 298 th Infantry Regiment.

1931 Honolulu - Five Local Men Charged in Gang Rape
Five local men falsely charged with rape.
Left to right, Horace Ida, David Takai, Henry Chang, Joe Kahahawai and Ben Ahakuelo.
Thalia Massie
In 1931 Honolulu five local men (Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian) were falsely accused of gang raping a white woman – Thalia Massie; the wife of a US Navy officer stationed at Pearl Harbor. (See Honor Killing by David Stannard, Viking Press.)

Law enforcement believed Mrs. Massie’s dubious claims and the five local men were charged with rape. There was pressure from the Honolulu newspapers, the white oligarchy and the Navy to convict the five men.

Hung Jury - Mistrial Declared

But after a three-week trial and many hours of deliberations, the jury deadlocked.
National Response - Racially Charged

The response from local and national press was racially charged, "Hawaii, it seemed, was a place where white women could be raped at will."

Lynch Mob Atmosphere

The alleged victim’s mother, Grace Fortescue, and her husband, Tommie Massie, took matters into their own hands. First, with the help of two Navy enlisted men, they kidnapped Horace Ida and viciously beat him. Next they kidnapped Joe Kahahawai and attempted to force him to confess. When he wouldn’t confess, they killed him with a gunshot to the chest.
Grace Fortescue, Tommie Massie and the two enlisted men were put on trial for the murder of Joe Kahahawai. For the sum of $30,000 the most famous American lawyer of the time, Clarence Darrow, came out of retirement to represent the four defendants.
Clarence Darrow
Kahahawai Murder Defendants Found Guilty

A local jury, with six haole's, found the defendants guilty of manslaughter. The crime carried a mandatory sentence of 10 years' hard labor.

There was intense pressure from the president's cabinet, Congress, the military, and the local establishment to pardon the convicted defendants; after all they argued, it was an honor killing and justified.

Joe Kahahawai's Killers Walk Free

Governor Judd, the Territorial governor, commuted their sentences to one hour, spent in his office. The convicted defendants, Thalia Massie and Clarence Darrow left Hawaii within days. 

The murder of Joe Kahahawai has been called, “Hawaii’s first lynching.” The killers were allowed to walk free because they were white and well connected.
Joe Kahahawai 1909 – 1932
Below is a reduced-size copy of a “Wanted Dead” poster that appeared on the Big Island in 1998. The poster was reprinted in the local paper.
Albert Ian Schweitzer and Joe Kahahawai Similarities

  • Albert Ian Schweitzer and Joe Kahahawai are both Native Hawaiian.
  • Both were from humble backgrounds.
  • Both Ian and Joe were falsely accused of shocking crimes.
  • Both Schweitzer’s accuser (Frank Pauline) and Kahahawai’s accuser (Thalia Massie) were of dubious character and credibility.
  • Both of these men’s accusers were believed by law enforcement and the “establishment.”
  • Both Kahahawai and Schweitzer were publicly condemned prior to trial.
  • In both cases there was a lynch mob atmosphere.
  • Both men suffered horrible injustices.

If you haven’t already done so, please watch “Who Killed Dana Ireland?” at for more information about this shocking crime. 

Judges for Justice does not intend to criticize any participants in this case – past or present. Error happens; it is part of the human condition and when recognized it is progress toward truth. It is never too late for justice.

This is the 21 st email from Judges for Justice. Stay tuned for the 22 nd, “Albert Schweitzer - 1952 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient”.
Judge Michael Heavey (Ret.)
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“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

Edmund Burke