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Court Report

reporters@samoanews.com

STATUS OF SIAUMAU SIAUMAU CASE

Siaumau Siaumau Jr’s case was called before the trial court of Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr to hear arguments in the government’s motion for reconsideration of the court’s order that government pay $260,000 to the Public Defender’s Office.

This was requested for defense costs payable from sources other than the inadequate funding presently budgeted for the Public Defender’s office of the American Samoa Government.

Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop told the court during the hearing that this government’s reconsideration motion is moot, given that the government will be filing the proper motion seeking to withdraw the death penalty in Siaumau’s case.

Associate Justice Richmond told the government that something needs to be filed before the court regarding said issue. As Samoa News reported earlier, Governor Togiola Tulafono has asked the Attorney General’s office to withdraw the death penalty stipulation in the case against Siaumau

Siaumau Jr.  is accused in the July 2010 shooting death of Police Detective Lt. Liusila Brown and the attempted murder of another officer. Togiola, in his request to the AG’s office, said that American Samoa is a Christian country and does not need a death penalty.

Siaumau Jr is facing charges of murder in the first degree, two counts of attempted murder in the first degree on distinct victims, three counts of assault in the first degree against distinct victims, three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, two faculty distinct counts of unlawful possession of an unlicensed firearm and public peace disturbance.

A week after the shooting Deputy AG Jessop filed the motion seeking the imposition of the death penalty should the defendant be convicted of first-degree murder. Folau in her motion said that sufficient circumstances exist to justify the imposition of the death penalty.

In the meantime, Deputy AG Jessop said the government has spent more than $20,000 and the additional $260,000 is just too much for the government to bear.

Assistant Public Defenders Leslie Cardin and Mike White have since completed re-certification training off island, which was paid for by the government.

The guidelines of the American Bar Association (ABA) —of which American Samoa is a member— call for a defense team in Capital cases consisting of at least two qualified attorneys, an investigator and a mitigating expert.

Samoa News should point out the move for the government to withdraw the death penalty was in negotiation before a letter to the editor —“Ua Ao Samoa” — was published on June 1, 2012, in the Samoa News. The  letter, which was in the Samoan language, was signed by Stella Siaumau, an aunt of the defendant, who addressed Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop, asking why Jessop was adamant in her pursuit of the death penalty for her nephew, Siaumau Jr., and asked Jessop to reconsider.

PENIAMINA OPETAIA NOW SEEKS JURY TRIAL

Peniamina Opetaia—charged in connection with a sexual case involving a 16 year old girl who was impregnated as a result of the alleged sexual acts— had received a plea deal offer from the government; however Opetaia has asked the court for a jury trial.

The matter was presided over by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

Assistant Public Defender Mike White told the court he has received the plea deal and has reviewed it with the defendant and it was filed with the court.

However the defendant has changed his mind, and wants to have his matter proceed to a jury trial.

Opetaia is charged together with the victim’s uncle, which Samoa News cannot name to protect the identity of the victim. Opetaia is charged with rape, sexual abuse first degree and endangering the welfare of a child.

According to the government’s case, this came to light when a relative of the victim filed a complaint with CID on February 27, 2012. The relative who reported the matter to police accused the Uncle as the one who got the 16-year-old girl pregnant.

It’s alleged that when police questioned the victim, she told police she had sexual intercourse with two men, her neighbor Opetaia and her uncle, the High Chief of the family.

The government claims Opetaia admitted to police that he met the victim in October 2011 but he did not have sex with her until December 2011 up to January 2012.

Associate Justice Richmond scheduled the jury trial on November 1, 2012. Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop told the court the government anticipates that this jury trial will be at least one day.

The Uncle’s case is also pending in the High Court. According to court filings the victim told police she also had sexual relationship with the 62-year-old man.

Court filing states that the uncle instructed the victim not to say anything to anyone regarding the alleged sexual acts. The Uncle refused to make a statement to police.

The court filing also noted that the Uncle involved in this matter is a former teacher who was also convicted of sexual assault in September 1997.



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