Four Youth Found Not Guilty of Murder, Assessors Unanimous on Lesser Charge of Manslaughter

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A panel of five assessors have found four men from Sapulu, Faleasiu not guilty of murder, however, did return a unanimous decision of manslaughter against all defendants.

Leota Tima Leavai with her client, Faasipa Matuu.

Puka Wesley, Faasipa Matuu, Milo Lilomaiava and Peato Upu were jointly charged with murder, with the alternative charge of manslaughter, in relation to the death of fellow villager, Pei Aumalii, after an altercation and stone throwing incident which involved alcohol in February 2018.

All four defendants maintained their not guilty pleas and each was represented by a separate lawyer.

The delay in the Court hearing was due to preliminary matters where defense counsels had questioned the legality of the process when police had taken their clients’ cautioned statements.

Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio represented Peato Upu. Unasa Iuni Sapolu represented Milo Lilomaiava. Ann Matalasi of Leavai Law appeared for Faasipa Tupu while Tanya Toailoa appeared for Kupa Wesley.

Sarona Ponifasio with her client Peato Upu.

Eighteen witnesses had been listed in the week-long trial before Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren.

The Court had heard the evidence of the Pathologist who travelled from Australia to conduct a post-mortem. He testified that Mr Aumalii had died of blunt force injuries to his head and chest. When questioned by defense counsels, he could not say with 100% certainty what type of action may have caused the fatal injuries, naming a number of possibilities.

Before leaving to deliberate, Justice Tuala-Warren cautioned the panel of assessors against being influenced by any outside information regarding the case they may have heard or read in the media. The judge also explained that the decision had to be agreed to by at least four assessors.

The four defendants are on bail and will return to Court in July for sentencing by Justice Tuala-Warren.