Charge dismissed against father over family dispute death

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Aaron Vitale is a free man. 

He is home to spend Father’s Day with his family after a manslaughter charge, filed against him over the death of his brother-in-law, Kaisara Tangatauli, of Fa'atoia, was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice, Lei’ataualesa Darryl Clarke, yesterday.  

The accused faced one count of manslaughter in connection with the death.

Prosecuting for the Attorney General’s Office was Leone Sua-Mailo while Vitale was represented by lawyer, Leota Raymond Shcuster. 

In his ruling, Justice Lei’ataualesa acquitted Vitale, claiming he acted to protect himself and his child.

“The prosecution has failed to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Justice Lei’ataulesa said. “Accordingly, the charge against the accused is dismissed.” 

The Prosecution called seven witnesses to the stand. Constable Afalua Fetu tendered the scene plan and Constable Vaimoana Krieg tendered photographs of the incident on 6 January 2017.

The Prosecution alleged that injuries suffered by the deceased causing his death were inflicted by Vitale while they were in their family Toyota Voxy traveling from Faleatiu to Fa’atoia in the wee hours of 6 January, 2017. 

Justice Leiataualesa noted in his ruling only one witness gave evidence about what happened during the drive. 

The evidence was given by the defendant’s wife, who is also the younger sister of the deceased. She said the deceased was complaining about internal family issues. 

Not long after, the deceased swore at her.

That’s when the fistfight took place, which she tried to stop. 

Vitale told the Police that his brother in law first punched him. 

 “After being punched by the deceased and being injured, he (defendant) then hit him with either the back of his hand twice as submitted by accused counsel or elbow twice as submitted by prosecution counsel,” said Justice Leiataualesa. 

The accused told Police this made the deceased punch him more and this occurred while Vitale’s daughter was between him and the deceased. 

The second fistfight broke out between the defendant and the deceased when the vehicle reached Puipa’a. They only stopped when the baby started crying at Vaitele.

The sister’s testimony further pointed out when the vehicle reached the house at Faatoia, the accused left the car, while the deceased continued to verbally threaten the defendant. 

She told her brother to stop and to consider her and the kids.

 “Leutu said she had no reason to think her brother was seriously injured. 

“She thought listening to his voice that he was angry. He did not sound like a person in need of help but accepted ‘mapusela’ as descriptive of his voice.

 “She walked to the main road to the accused.” 

Justice Leiataualesa in his ruling noted that a family discussion was held, then the accused packed his clothes and left. 

Not long after since Vitale left, the deceased was found lying forward across the back seat. Blood was coming from his nose and mouth. 

The deceased was taken to the hospital and he was pronounced dead on arrival.  

Dr. Pai Enosa was the Emergency Department physician who examined the deceased on arrival. 

He tendered the Coroner’s Form which indicated that a CT Scan was ordered due wounds seen on his face, few lumps on his face, as well and bruises and cut above his lip; blood on his nose and mouth. 

Dr. Enosa described the wounds observed as “usually from a very blunt object, hardly caused by any sharp object.

“Based on Dr. Enosa’s clinical examination and the CT scan concluded that the cause of death was “severe brain injury or severe head injury.” 

Justice Lei’ataualesa noted during his ruling that based on the evidence, the deceased was intoxicated, very aggressive and was the initiator of the violence. 

“His aggressiveness was evidenced by his swearing, tone of voice and being the initiating source of the violence and his later demands to punch the mouth of the accused and to cause the accused injury. 

“He was prepared to initiate the violence and assault the accused despite the clear danger such actions represented to the baby. 

“The deceased in my judgment very likely started the second part of the altercation. That view is reaffirmed by his sister’s evidence.

“The accused was concerned about the danger to his child, said as much and he told Police he moved his child away from the deceased.

 “There is no reliable evidence that the accused started any part of the physical altercation that he swore or was otherwise aggressive in his behavior.” 

 In fact, according to the sister, the deceased demanded that he present his mouth to the defendant to punch to injure it, the accused compliantly did as he was told. 

“The accused only responded when that assault continued. That context leads me to the issues of self defence and defence of another.”

 

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