The District Court yesterday rejected a statement written by the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O), Mauga Precious Chang, in relation to the traffic offences she’s charged with.
Mauga has pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent driving causing injury, dangerous driving and failing to stop to ascertain in relation to traffic incident she was involved in.
She is represented by Queen’s Counsel Aaron Perkins and former Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai. New Zealand-based lawyer, Satiu Simativa Perese, is the Prosecutor.
On the second day of the trial yesterday, District Court Judge, Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma, rejected an application from Mauga’s lawyer for a statement she made in relation to the incident to be admissible as part of the prosecution’s evidence.
In his brief decision, Fepulea’i considered the application and ruled that the statement was inadmissible.
The document was the center of a legal argument between the lawyers yesterday.
Judge rejects statement
Perkins argued that the document provided by Mauga should be admissible and be included in the Police evidence. He pointed out that it makes no difference whether it’s referred to it as a letter or a statement.
While Perkins accepts that a self-serving statement cannot be tendered by the defendant with expectation that it would be part of trial’s evidence, he believes this should not always be the case.
“The essential point here is the timing of certain events,” said Perkins.
“There is a difference - in my submission between tendering a statement before my client was arrested and charged and doing so after.”
Perkins made reference to the evidence of investigating officer Sergeant Magalo Pul. He saide that when he went to see Mauga it was to inform her of her rights which included her writing a statement if she wished to.
He said before Sergeant could ask her if she wished to provide a statement, Mauga handed a letter to him.
“It’s important to know that these events occurred before my client was arrested,” argued Perkins. “It wasn’t a self-serving evidence provided by my client after she was arrested. It happened before the charges and the arrest. How on earth could that not be admissible?”
Perkins added the Police also did not inform his client they would not be producing the letter/statement as part of their evidence.
“If she had she might have the option of her saying that if you will not produce it then ill repeat it to you now,” he said.
But Satiu disagreed.
He reminded that the defendant is the Director of the National Prosecution Office and she knew what the rules are.
“The police officer, it’s not for him to start advising of what he’s about to do or what not to do,” said Satiu. “She knows. If she wanted to rely on the statement she should’ve said so…a self-serving statement is not allowed to pass through evidence without any testing whatsoever.”
Satiu also referred to cases where a Judge ruled against self serving statements being inadmissible.
“(It’s) equally clear that the defendant is not entitled to produce a carefully written statement to police with the view to then it make part of the prosecution case,” he said.
“That is my concern in this letter.” Prior to that, Dr. Agape Amituanai gave a medical report of Loretta Teueli’s condition. Ms. Teueli was on the passenger’s side of the vehicle driven by Mauga when it was involved in the accident.
Dr. Amituanai recalled when she examined Ms. Teueli she had pain on her left flank, chest and shoulder. There were no bruises or external injuries, she told the Court.
The doctor said Ms. Teueli had soft tissue injury from the accident but no open wounds.
During cross examination, Dr. Amituanai said the degree of pain indicates bruising is deeper than the skin.
Another witness called on the stand was taxi driver Tafito Selesele. Mr. Selesele was driving from the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi building to the front gate. He remembered that he saw the Tucson driven by Mauga turning in without stopping and that is how it crashed with the bus coming from eastern side.
Perkins then put it to Mr. Selesele that he did not know whether the indicator was on.
In response, the taxi driver said that is correct.
The witness was also asked if he could measure the distance of how far the Tucson was from the bus.
Using inside the Court room, the taxi driver pointed to a distance from a speaker to the back wall of the Court room, estimated to be 12meters.
About the bus, Mr. Selesele was asked if the bus was speeding.
He replied he does not know.
When Perkins told him about a statement he made where he mentioned that the bus was speeding, he said this was correct.
After that the Investigating Officer, Sergeant Magalo Pule gave evidence.
The sergeant recalled that he was instructed by the Police Commissioner on Tuesday, 16th August about Mauga’s arrest. He said he was accompanied by a female officer and Superintendent Su’a Tiumalu to to the National Prosecution Office.
Upon arrival, Mauga was not at the office.
At 10 o’clock that morning, she arrived and they proceeded to talk to her. Su’a led the discussion. Sergeant Pule said on that day the arrest was effected.
“The caution statement was done in office but Su’a had informed her why we were there,” he explained.
The officer said he was the one that gave the caution statement at the police office where Aumua was present.
In cross examination, Perkins asked if the Sergeant had received a letter from the defendant in the form of a statement.
He replied yes on a day before 16th August.
At this point, Satui argued that the letter was inadmissible.
The hearing continues today with the lawyers making their final submissions.