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Fono News

reporters@samoanews.com

REPEAL DEATH PENALTY HEARING IN HOUSE

Attorney General Fepuleai A. Ripley Jr. will be among three witnesses to testify this morning before the House Judiciary Committee on the Togiola Administration's proposal to repeal the current death penalty statute.

Two other witnesses who were asked to testify are Public Defender Ruth Risch-Fuatagavi and the American Samoa Bar Association president. The administration bill was introduced last Friday in both the Senate and House.

By removing the death penalty, the only penalty proposed under a conviction of murder in the first degree is that the person will be sentenced to imprisonment for life and is not eligible for probation or parole until he has served a minimum of 40 years of the sentence.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has said that the death penalty in American Samoa has “not become a deterrent to heinous crime or a punishment at all.”  Instead, he said, it has become  "‘tough talk’ and merely an empty threat.”

NEW COURT JUDGEMENT TO BE PAID

An appropriation bill to pay a new High Court judgement was introduced Monday in both the Senate and House. Funding source for the $95,000 judgement comes from the Claims and Damages Account, overseen by the Attorney General’s Office.

In his submission letter to the Fono that included the proposed judgement bill, the governor said the settlement agreement in this case “contains a confidentiality provision and as such the Office of the Attorney General will best be able to answer any inquiries or concerns” that the Fono may have.

This appropriation is for full payment of the settlement reached by the parties in High Court in the case against ASG by a Saneterini and Lagimaina Amosa, over the death of their son following a surgery at LBJ Medical Center in 2007.

All suits against LBJ are handled by the Attorney General’s Office and therefore any court judgement against the government is paid for by ASG.

SUPPLEMENTAL $6.8 MILLION APPROVED

By a majority vote, the House approved on Monday its version of the fiscal year 2013 supplemental appropriation of $6.8 million to be funded with unbudgeted and unobligated revenues and funds from the Tobacco Settlement Loan proceeds.

The supplemental bill restores the total $6.8 million in local revenues the Fono cut from the FY 2013 budget, due to concerns over conflicting testimonies from government witnesses during Joint Budget Committee hearings.

While the Budget and Planning Office says the money is available in FY 2013, Attorney General Fepuleai A. Ripley said this money remains with the U.S. Interior Department to pay for an ASG loan from the federal government.

The House version was submitted yesterday to the Senate where its version of the supplemental was introduced on Monday. Several government departments, agencies and programs whose funding was cut from the FY 2013 budget are restored under the supplemental.

Meanwhile, the Senate and House are going through the last phase of approving each other's amended final version of the FY 2013 budget, which now stands at $454.86 million, a reduction of about $42.43 million from the original version of $497.29 million from the Togiola Administration.  FY 2013 begins on Oct. 1, 2012 and the Fono is hoping to send one version of the bill to the governor by tomorrow.



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