Jury acquits Marlon Uli on escape charges
Marlon Uli was acquitted on all four counts of escaping while on work release, following a jury trial last week.
Uli is currently serving 10 years in jail for a drug related case but was charged for deviating from his work release.
Both Marlon and his twin brother Merlin were charged. A separate jury trial for Merlin is set to take place later this month.
Marlon who was on trial for three days in a case that was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Tony Graf, and he was represented by Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei.
Presiding over the jury trial was Associate Justice Lyle L. Richmond and Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr. and Muasau Tasina Tofili.
According to the government's case, on November 16, 2011, Marlon was approved to take part in the work release program. He was to work at 3M Burger and attend college full time.
His part time job hours were set for between and after classes. However, a during a shakedown of the TCF on June 22, 2012, police confiscated a number of items from Marlon’s cell, with some indicating he "was deviating from the direct route to and from his work release."
Confiscated Items included multiple receipts, including a receipt dated January 5, 2012 for a money order from the Fagatogo Post Office. Marlon’s signature was on the receipt.
Police also confiscated his driver’s license and voter registration card, both of which were issued while he was incarcerated.
The government also claimed the defendant was present on May 25, 2012 at the Leone Post Office.
Following the testimonies of the government’s witnesses, Uiagalelei moved for the court to dismiss the charges against his client, noting there was no contract signed between Marlon and the Warden indicating he was not to deviate from his work release. Also, Uiagalelei argued, the Warden did not specify to Marlon what his limitations were, while on work release.
In addition, the defense argued the government was not able to prove the allegations that Marlon, upon leaving the jail, went straight to the store — namely one of the hardware stores.
Uiagalelei noted that although there were receipts, no one was able to point out if any shopping was done by Marlon.
Assistant AG Graf told the court Marlon was well aware that he was not allowed to deviate from his work place. He pointed to the driver's license and voter registration card confiscated during the shakedown and said Marlon picked it up himself when he deviated from his work release.
It took the jury several hours to deliberate before a verdict was rendered.
Uiagalelei told the Samoa News the jury returned a fair verdict, considering the evidence presented during trial.
”My client is very happy with the jury's decision as he had no intention of escaping from the custody of the TCF or from the work release program during his time on it. He went on the work release program to support his family and to earn back the trust of the community. He hopes that his vindication today will help earn back some of that trust,” said Uiagalelei.
The prosecutor declined to comment on the outcome of the jury trial.
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