Court orders records

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i.

District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The District Court has demanded more records from the Tafaigata Prison in its quest to find out how prisoner, Siliva Aualiitia, died last year.

The order was made by District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i, who is the Coroner in the Inquest, which started last week.

The order for additional records for the Court’s Review was directed to the Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, who was testifying in the Inquest.

The family of Siliva is represented by lawyer, Afamasaga Michael So’onalole. 

They are questioning why a post-mortem examination was not conducted when Siliva was found with bruises and scratches on his face and body.

Taitosaua, during his testimony, said when they discovered that Siliva was not inside the jail, they immediately looked for him.

“We conducted a search three days in a row then the body was found and I was informed by my office. I was told the Police have been informed of the body and I was told they will take over the crime scene,” he said. 

Taitosaua said he did not view the body firsthand, as a former Assistant Commissioner was at the scene. 

Judge Alalatoa queried the Commissioner whether an internal investigation was carried out into the death.

The Commissioner responded that in other similar incidents, there were protocols in place. 

 “I am not asking about other incidents,” Judge Alalatoa said. “I am only interested in this specific matter. 

“So my specific question Taitosaua was there any internal investigation carried out on this matter; specifically on the other prisoners who was housed together with Siliva? Or did you leave the investigation to be carried out solely by the Police? 

Taitosaua responded: “I believe there was an investigation as there are reports that were submitted.” 

Judge Alalatoa then put it to him that “personally you have no knowledge of that?

 “Yes,” he responded. 

Judge Alalatoa then made an order for every prison record on the prisoner. 

“I would like to see every particular of occurrence pertaining to Siliva Aualiitia as I know for a fact there is an Occurrence Book at the prisons as I have seen in previous cases. 

“So every record relating to Siliva from 29 May to 31 July 2017; or any records relating to his medical condition that was mentioned previously and any records for an internal investigation conducted on the death of Siliva,” ordered Judge Alalatoa. 

The District Court Judge informed the Commissioner that the family of Siliva suspect “there is a possibility of foul play. 

“They have witnesses that Siliva had injuries on his body, namely on his forehead and chest,” said Judge Alalatoa. 

Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein.
Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein.

As reported earlier, on the first day of the inquest Investigative Officer, Sergeant Failauga Failuga took the stand and described what he had seen when he saw Aualiitia’s body.

“I saw that Aualiitia had scratches on top of his left eye as well as stains of blood on his body,” said Sergeant Failauga. “As an investigative officer, these scratches and blood stains were caused from when he was hanging from the breadfruit tree.

“There was a branch from a breadfruit tree that was right on top of the head of the deceased and that caused those scratches and blood stains.”

Afamasaga then put it to the witness that there should have been more done on the matter. The lawyer also asked the witness how he came to a decision that the cause of death was from suicide.

In response, Sergeant Failauga said: “It was because the deceased was found hanging from a breadfruit tree.”

Afamasaga put it to the defendant that he should have treated the matter as a homicide, given the deceased had some scratches on his face as well as blood stains.

Sergeant Failauga said the matter was treated as a homicide.

“After gathering all the information that was needed, we found that the deceased wanted to have a rest (ua fiamalolo) from the sickness that he had,” Failauga told the Court.

“Especially because he was waiting for his operation, but it never pushed through so that is why he decided to take his life so that he can rest from all that he is going through.”

Judge Alalatoa asked Sergeant Failauga whether he had checked the prison's log book or occurrence that will state what activities Aualiitia had done on the day he went missing, but Sergeant Failauga said he did not check.

“Why didn’t you check the log book because that should have been one of the first things that you should have looked at as an investigative officer?” said Judge Alalatoa.

Sergeant Failauga did not provide an answer to the Court.

Another issue Afamasaga questioned Sergeant Failauga about was a post-mortem examination.

“Why wasn’t there a post-mortem examination?” asked Afamasaga

In response, Sergeant Failauga told the Court the doctor that was on duty that day said there was no post-mortem examination needed.

Afamasaga then put it to the Sergeant that his job was to work together with the doctor on duty.

“Didn’t you get suspicious?” asks Afamasaga.

“You were supposed to advise the doctor that a post-mortem examination is needed, given that the deceased had some scratches on his face.

“It was part of your job to advise the doctor on what needs to be done and especially in homicide cases.”

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