Update: Haleck found 'not guilty'
A jury has found Gerhard Otto Haleck “not guilty” of one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance — marijuana — which was transported through the US Postal Service.
The panel of 6 jurors handed down its verdict last Friday afternoon following a four-day trial where the defendant even took the witness stand, telling jurors he didn’t know what was in the package that he went to claim at the Post Office on Jan. 3, 2017.
“My client is very pleased with the jury's verdict. He is thankful to God and his family for believing in him,” said Haleck’s attorney, Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei in response to Samoa News inquiries over the weekend.
Asked if the defense was surprised with the jury’s verdict, Uiagalelei said, “Honestly we were not surprised with the verdict, given our confidence in our case and defense. However, sometimes you never know how these things will turn out. My client is just happy that he can now return to living a normal life with his wife and kids.”
“I always believed that he shouldn't have been charged in the first place, given the fact that he was just a guy who showed up to check the company mail,” he continued. “Unfortunately, the government felt that this unfortunate situation warranted a felony charge.”
“Now that this case is behind us it's time to move forward,” Uiagalelei said, adding that while he appreciates the government's efforts in fighting the drug problem on island, “there should be another way to handle drug cases involving the mail, as sometimes people honestly don't know what is being received, yet they find themselves in a situation like what Mr. Haleck experienced.”
Assistant Attorney General, Kristy Dunn, who prosecuted the case, offered no comments when approached after court proceedings last Friday afternoon.
Last Friday morning, Chief Justice Michael Kruse — assisted on the bench by Associate Judges Muasau T. Tofili and Tunupopo Alaalafaga — gave instructions to the jury before their deliberations, saying the government — not the defense — has the burden of proving its case. Additionally the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance in the package, which arrived through the mail, was marijuana.
The court also outlined for the jury elements to prove the charge, in that on Jan. 3, 2017 the defendant knowingly possessed marijuana.
“Your verdict of guilty or not guilty must be unanimous,” Kruse informed jurors before dismissing the alternate juror.
The case went to the jury around 9:45a.m. and before 1p.m. the jury was back in the court room, with the foreperson announcing that the jury had reached a verdict.
When the court clerk read the verdict of “not guilty”, some of Haleck’s family members in the gallery were overheard by Samoa News sobbing quietly, with hands on their faces.
Uiagalelei patted his client on the back, and Samoa News observed the defendant putting his fingers to his closed eyes. Throughout the rest of the court proceeding, Haleck had his head bowed way down on the defense table with his face buried in his hands, while Kruse was thanking members of the jury for their service.
Neither the defense nor the government wanted to poll the jury individually, when asked by the court.