Fiaui confirmed as new Public Defender
Douglas Fiaui has been confirmed as the new Public Defender, following a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives yesterday morning. Last week the Senate also gave their unanimous vote for the nominee. During the House Judicial Committee last week which lasted for just 15 minutes, the representatives did not question Fiaui’s qualifications as an attorney, given that he has worked in the government for several years.
Vice Chairman of the committee, Timusa Lam Yuen commended Fiaui, saying that in spite of his youth, he is already a leader in a government department and urged him to do what is right in helping the people of American Samoa.
Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava questioned Fiaui about someone being charged, yet that person did not commit the crime.
Fiaui responded that his job is to defend the people.
“We defend the people who are accused of breaking the law and it’s not often, but there are times people are accused of breaking the law and they haven’t broken the law. It's our job to investigate these cases, and to defend the rights of people who are accused of breaking the law.
“If we convict someone of a crime they didn’t commit — and we put them in prison — that would be the ultimate injustice," he said. "So our office is the barrier to that injustice and we are the people who make sure the rights of the accused are protected, and that innocent people don’t go to jail,” he said, echoing his response to the Senate committee last week.
Fiaui’s lack of fluency in the Samoan language, something that was also brought up in last week’s Senate confirmation hearing, was noted by the Vice Chairman, who said he had concerns and asked how does Fiaui communicate with the Samoans, who are charged with crimes, yet cannot speak English.
Fiaui said that currently, there are two translators at their office, who assist him and the other attorneys in their office.
It should be noted his opening remarks were in Samoan, both in the Senate hearing last week, and in yesterday’s hearing. They were the same remarks.
Fiaui also repeated his request in the House for the assistance from the legislature, given that there’s no available program for those who are mentally challenged or mentally ill, who have been charged with crimes.
According to his resume, prior to his tenure at the governor’s office he was an Assistant Public Defender as a trial attorney and handled numerous felony and misdemeanor cases of every grade at all stages of the judicial process.
Fiaui is well versed in the nuances of the local criminal laws and is also keenly aware of the challenges face by the PD’s office, according to the governor's recommendation letter.