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Deputy AG asks Court to reconsider allocation for Siaumau defense

Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Folau is moving for Trial Division of the High Court to reconsider their order for the government to pay $260,000 to the Public Defender’s office, which is representing Siaumau Siaumau Jr., charged in the murder of police Lt. Liusila Brown and the attempted murder of another police officer.

Folau said in her one page reconsideration motion that “the government of American Samoa hereby moves this honorable Court reconsider its order” requiring the government to provide funds for payment of Approved Defense Costs for Siaumau Jr’s case.

The Deputy Attorney General filed it with the high court yesterday morning.

Folau told Samoa News that the money in question ($260,000) is not pocket change, and therefore it’s appropriate for the government to ask the court to reconsider its decision.

Last month Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr. issued an order approving $260,000. The five-page order sets aside public funds for approved defense costs “payable from sources other than the inadequate funding presently budgeted for in the Public Defender’s office of the American Samoa Government.”

According to the court order the government filed charges against the defendant for commission 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 distinct counts of unlawful possession of an unlicensed firearm and public peace disturbance.

The order says the next day the government filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in this case, however the order says the potential result of a capital case puts the defendant’s life at stake and counsel representing the defendant must have the resources in terms of extensive personnel, equipment and supplies necessary to fully and thoroughly investigate and evaluate all aspects of the case in order to properly prepare and advocate the best possible defense strategy.

According to the order, the American Bar Association (ABA) has well-developed guidelines for the appointment and performance of defense counsels in death penalty cases. The order quoted ABA guidelines, which call for a defense team in Capital cases consisting of at least two qualified attorneys, an investigator and a mitigating expert.

The order goes on to state that experience with capital cases is unusual in American Samoa and the Public Defender’s office is not routinely funded to provide legal representation according to expected standards for such cases.

“The defense Counsel must be provided the assistance of all expert, investigative or other ancillary professional services reasonably necessary or appropriate to high quality legal representation at every stage of the proceedings” says the order.

The order has it that this approved funding for defense costs in this prosecution is payable from a separate account and shall be included in ASG’s budget for the next fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2012 and ending on September 30, 2013, for the purposes of inclusion in the government’s next fiscal year’s budget.

The High Court has yet to schedule a hearing on this matter.