Teen found guilty of attempted murder

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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A 17-year-old boy charged with the attempted murder of his stepfather, using a machete, has been found guilty. 

The verdict by assessors of three men and two women was delivered after a week long trial. Tele’ameko Kepaoa will be sentenced on 9 June 2017 by Supreme Court Justice Mata Tuatagaloa. 

Defense Counsel is Leota Raymond Schuster. 

The prosecutor was Lucymaria Sio.  Prior to the trial, there were questions about the unfairness of how the Police obtained the defendant’s statement.

The Prosecution called Constable Solomona Tu’ugalilo to testify, as he was present during the interview, as the lead investigator was unavailable. 

Tu’ugalilo read out the defendant’s caution statement. According to the testimony, the defendant admits that he was upset with his stepfather. The defendant was at the neighbour’s house and overheard the victim having an argument with his wife, who is the defendant’s mother.

The argument was in relation to the defendant and his sister. As a result, the victim packed his bags and left the house.  The defendant fetched a machete and followed him. 

“I caught up with him, I struck him and missed and then he took off running and I followed him,” the statement reads.

“He stopped and then I struck him again and it landed on his right arm wrist and thumb fell off. Then he fell to the ground and held his injured arm." 

“I struck him again and the machete landed on his left hand. 

“I continued to strike him and then I saw people running with flashlights and I took off and hid at nearby bushes. 

“Not long after he was taken to the hospital I came back to my neighbour’s house and then I was escorted to our house and the police arrived not long after and I was taken into custody.”  

 

LEGAL ISSUES 

Prior to Tu’ugalilo’s reading of the defendant’s written statement, Leota pointed out to prosecution that Tu’ugalilo is the not the leading investigator and was not the one who conducted the interrogation. 

“Our questions will be more appropriate to the police officer who was questioning the accused,” said Leota. 

Ms. Sio explained the officer in question is unavailable. 

However Justice Tuatagaloa intervened and noted the Constable testifying did not carry out the interview. 

But Ms. Sio continued to indicate that Tu’ugalilo was present and he witnessed the interview. 

Justice Tuatagalo did not accept this.

“There’s a difference Ms. Sio, the person who asks the questions, there is a difference and the person who's just sitting there, if he answers its hearsay... he can’t be saying what he only heard, because it wasn't him.”  

The Prosecution pointed out that in the Evidence Act it allows for hearsay statements made by defendants and it can be tendered as evidence due to the unavailability of the witness. 

Justice Tuatagaloa noted that when it comes to “the caution statement it’s always the person. The Constable who asked the questions that turns up to tender the caution statement. He’s (Tuugalilo) is just a secondary Constable there.”

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