Judge Sunia dismisses the most serious charge against Siaumau
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Associate Justice Fiti Sunia has dismissed the most serious charge against Thomas Siaumau, which is first-degree attempted murder.
However, he denied the defense's motion to dismiss counts 3 & 5 — first degree property damage and unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon.
MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTS 3 & 5
When the government rested on Day Six of Siaumau’s trial, the defense moved to dismiss two of the charges: first degree property damage and unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon.
The defense argued that the government didn’t meet their burden to prove their case against Siaumau beyond a reasonable doubt.
The motion was argued in court without the jurors present.
For first degree property damage, the government claimed that Siaumau damaged one of the light poles at the Tony Solaita Baseball Field in Tafuna. For unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon, the government alleged that Siaumau possessed a firearm without a license from the Commissioner of Public Safety.
Defense attorney deSaulles told the court that there was no evidence to support the allegation that Siaumau shot and damaged the light pole at the baseball field.
The only sworn testimony presented by the government was that of Parks & Recreation director, Kenneth Tupua, who confirmed that 7 light fixtures from one of the light poles at the baseball field were damaged. But he could not confirm who did it.
For unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon, deSaulles said there's no evidence to prove that his client had in his possession a firearm on the night of the alleged incident.
Prosecutor Christy Dunn argued that there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury to prove the two charges against the defendant.
She said the government's eyewitness told jurors that he saw Siaumau holding a rifle in his hand and pointing it at the police unit.
Dunn asked the court to deny the defense’s motion.
In response, Sunia did not address the defense’s motion to dismiss counts 3 & 5.
Instead, he spoke about the elements that supported the first degree attempted murder charge.
Sunia told attorneys from both sides that the court had listened carefully to their arguments regarding the two charges to be dismissed, but no one addressed the issue of whether there was sufficient evidence to support the charge of first degree attempted murder.
According to Sunia, there was no evidence presented to the jury to prove that the defendant planned to kill anyone, including a police officer, on the night of the alleged incident. Sunia reminded both attorneys that attempted murder occurs when there is an intent to kill another person.
He then ordered that the first degree attempted murder charge be dismissed; but denied the defense’s motion to dismiss counts 3 & 5.
For first degree property damage, Sunia said that in Rule 29 (a) of criminal procedure, the defense can enter a motion of acquittal if they feel the government failed to present sufficient evidence to prove their case. However, Rule 29 also states that such motion can be granted if the court feels that there wasn't sufficient evidence presented to the jury.
Sunia cited ASG vs Richard Majhor in 2006. He said in that same case, the Trial Court dismissed the defense’s motion for acquittal, because the court felt that there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to a jury.
Sunia said there was testimony that the defendant damaged the light pole at the baseball field, and was also armed with a rifle on the night of the alleged incident. For these reasons, Sunia denied the defense's motion.
The defense called three witnesses on Day Six: the government’s lead investigator, Det. Savelio Vaofanua; an 18-year-old male; and a female who was unwilling to appear in court to testify, despite a subpoena that was issued for her to do so.
Sunia has issued an Order to Show Cause (OSC) against her.
The 18-year-old male from Petesa testified that he, along with several friends including J.M. (the government’s eyewitness), were hanging out in front of an Asian-owned store in Tafuna around 8pm on the night of Dec. 14, 2017.
Around 9pm that same night, the witness said they left the area and headed to the Stadium to have their hair cut. According to the witness, they did not go with J.M. because he fell asleep in front of the store, so they left him there.
According to the witness, after their haircut, they returned to the store around 10pm and they continued to hang out in that area. He said when they got there, J.M. was still sleeping in front of the store.
They attempted to wake him, but he did not wake up.
Around 11pm, the witness said he and his friends went home but J.M. was still asleep in front of the store.
During his testimony, Det. Vaofanua told the jury that they did not find any firearms when they searched Siaumau’s home, pursuant to a search warrant from the court. He said more than 10 police officers were present during the search, which was called off after they searched the whole house.
“Did you ever seize any firearms or bullets during your search to link my client to this case?” deSaulles asked. Vaofanua said no.
“Throughout your investigation, did you ever discover any physical evidence to connect Mr. Siaumau to this case?” devalues continued. The witness said no.
“So your investigation and the case against Siaumau was based only on the testimony of one eyewitness, and there was no single piece of physical evidence that was discovered by police,” the defense attorney asked.
Vaofanua replied, “That is correct.”
The trial resumes at 9am today.