Sia Figiel’s Lawyer Requests Medical Assessment for Mental Illness


A prominent Samoan contemporary novelist, playwright, poet and painter, Papalii Sia Figiel appeared in the Supreme Court of Samoa on Tuesday morning, charged with the brutal murder of Dr Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard.

Unasa Iuni Sapolu representing Papalii told the Court her client suffered from mental illness and requested a medical assessment be carried out.

A defendant is considered legally insane if they are medically declared to have been unable to understand the nature and quality of their actions; and they could not differentiate between right and wrong due to a disease of the mind.

Papalii’s lawyer made a second request for a suppression order to prohibit and restrict the publication of information on the Court hearing stating that this would impact negatively on a fair trial for her client.

Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma presiding told Unasa the Court was unable to consider verbal submissions.

Prosecution requested more time to finalise police charges. The Court adjourned the matter to next week 17 April 2024 for police to finalise charges and for Unasa to file written submissions.

Dr Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard, 78 at the time of her death, was the first Samoan to be granted full professorship by an American University.

Dr Caroline was found dead by police at Papalii’s GaluMoana Theater at Vaivase-uta on Sunday 26 May 2024.

Police said at the time of Papalii’s arrest that the incident happened on Saturday 25 May 2024.  However, Papalii is alleged to have immediately left Vaivase-uta after the murder of Dr Caroline, and sought refuge at a friend’s place for the night.

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Papalii did not tell her friend what had happened until the next morning. Papalii turned herself in to police on Sunday morning. A search of the GaluMoana Theatre at Vaivase-uta near Apia led to the discovery of Dr Caroline’s body.

The Coroner had last week ordered a post mortem be carried out to determine cause of death.

Police have secured a hammer and a small knife as suspected murder weapons.

Papalii remains in police custody.