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Inmate files motion for new trial based on missing evidence, wrongful conviction

reporters@samoanews.com

Pati Lepou an inmate who is serving a 20-year sentence, following his conviction from a jury trial finding that he and other three inmates had escaped from the Tafuna Correctional facility in January 2010 and assaulted an ANZ bank security guard, has filed a motion for a new trial.

Lepou’s motion was filed through his lawyer Mark Ude and will be heard today in the High Court. In this matter Lepou was found guilty of three felony charges, first-degree robbery, escaping from custody and first-degree assault. Prosecuting this matter is Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna.

Ude noted that the basis for the motion of a new trial is the inability of the victim to properly identify Lepou as the perpetrator of the crime, as well as the presence of masks that none of the felon witnesses admitted to wearing. 

He said the observed masks were never produced by the governmental witnesses to prove their participation, nor did the Government have such masks entered into evidence so as to connect Lepou to the criminal acts. 

Lepou maintains that he is innocent of the crimes asserted by the Government in regards to his involvement.

The motion states that Lepou has continued to assert that he is innocent of the charges, having not illegally departed the premises of the Tafuna Correctional Facility.  He alleges his  conviction was based upon an alleged commission of acts based upon varied and contradictory testimony of three other prisoners who were given plea agreements for reduced charges. 

 “Lepou believes that reasonable doubt was shown, and that the documents indicating his incarceration in the TCF every hour should provide sufficient alibi defense to the crimes alleged.          

“The determination of the guilt of Defendant was therefore in error, especially as a result of police tampering of the statements of witnesses who testified in the Court, and would ask that a new trial be provided in accordance with his constitutional rights.

In support of his motion for new trial Ude, Lepou’s lawyer filed a memorandum of Points and Authorities in support of his motion for a new trial.  

According to the memorandum, Lepou requests that the Court review the record and address the matter regarding the inconsistencies in the evidence that would indicate reasonable doubt.

Ude noted that there is an Injustice of Wrongful Conviction and that the government failed to  properly identify Lepou as the perpetrator of the crime.

“The reason for this was that the individuals committing the acts wore masks. “These masks that were worn were not disclosed by any of the felon witnesses. “Neither did the Government enter these masks into evidence so as to connect Defendant to the criminal acts.”

Ude noted that in reviewing a motion for new trial, the court has broad power to grant relief within the court’s discretion to weigh the evidence and consider the credibility of the witnesses; and reiterated in the memorandum that Lepou maintains that he is innocent of the crimes asserted by the Government in regards to his involvement.  

“Lepou’s consistent assertions that he did not escape and commit the crimes as alleged suggests the Court might still review the circumstances of his trial and the failure of providing the masks to confirm the four inmates were, in fact, the people who committed the crime.”

Ude added in the memorandum that while Lepou did not object to the amending of the information at the time of sentencing, the filing of the information without a preliminary examination or an accurate identification of the Defendant is such that should lead the Court to review the lack of investigation regarding the perpetrators of the criminal acts. 

The determination of the guilt of Lepou was therefore an error of the Court, and Defendant would ask that a new trial be provided in accordance with his constitutional rights.

Lepou also requests that the Court review the imposition of sentence by the serving consecutively as opposed to serving concurrently with the earlier sentence for which Defendant is presently incarcerated. 

Lepou is also requesting that the Court consider both probated and concurrent sentences so that he be given credit for time served.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced Lepou to 15 years for robbery, 15 years for first degree assault, to be served concurrently and five years for the escape charges to run consecutively with the 15 years for the robbery and assault, a total of 20 years.

The inmates who testified against and who were charged together with Lepou were Sefo Lemalu, Gasona Mafiti and David Maea who entered into plea agreements with the government and agreed to testify against Lepou during his jury trial.

During the jury trial Lepou’s former cellmates testified for the government and told the court they opened their cell with a key which belonged to a correctional officer and they climbed over the fence and escaped.

Mafiti said they then headed to Lions Park where they saw the ANZ security guard sleeping and it was Lemalu’s idea to beat up the security guard and take the keys to his car.

Mafiti stated in his testimony that Lemalu took the first punch and the security guard fell, then Lepou joined in beating the guard.



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