Twelve-year-old testifies in hearing over death of former U.T.O.S. C.E.O.
A 12-year-old niece of the former Chief Executive Officer of the Unit Trust of Samoa, the late Sa'u Justina Sa'u, has testified in the Supreme Court in relation to propensity evidence from the witness of an event dating back to 2016.
Propensity evidence is evidence that a person engaged in prior bad behavior and is therefore more likely to engage in bad behavior again.
The Court heard that Carena Evile, 12, of Apolima uta, occasionally stayed with her aunt at Sinamoga on Thursdays so she could attend after school class.
Ms. Evile attended Kip Mc Grath with Sa’u’s daughter, Talei Justina Kelsall in 2016.
She allegedly witnessed Kolani Junior Lam strangling Ms. Kelsall in 2016 when Sa’u was in New Zealand to give birth.
Lam is being charged for the murder of Sa’u and common assault against Ms. Kelsall and conspiring to defeat the cause of justice.
The defendant, who married Sa’u in 2016, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In her evidence, Ms. Evile said Lam had picked her and Ms. Kelsall up from Kip Mc Grath because her aunt was in New Zealand.
They had watched T.V. with Lam’s twin boys, his daughter Jazelle from his first marriage and Ms. Kelsall.
She said Jazelle had wanted to play X-Box but Ms. Kelsall had told her no as everyone wanted to watch T.V. instead.
The witness was 9-years-old at the time of the incident.
“Jazelle then cried and went to the room. Then Kolani came and told Talei off..."
At this point Ms. Kelsall cried and went in the room. Ms. Evile followed her.
“Kolani then came and scolded Talei when she was crying on the bed. He (allegedly) grabbed her hand and pulled her off the bed. He then (allegedly) put his hand on her neck like this, (imitating Lam’s action) for a few seconds and then had said that everything in the house he owns – and he threw her on the bed.”
Ms. Evile recalled that she cried and screamed at Lam to stop, before running out of the room to tell her babysitter, Lele that the defendant is allegedly choking her cousin. She added that she had smelt alcohol on Lam’s breath that day.
Prosecutor and Assistant Attorney General, Magele Leone Su’a, asked the witness about Lam, in which she replied he sometimes argued with aunty Pai.
Ms. Evile refers to Sa’u as aunty Pai during her evidence.
In cross examination, defense lawyer, Lei'ataualesa Komisi Koria, queried her about Ms. Kelsall and how she felt about her step-father.
“She told me she didn’t like him, that he’s abusive and she misses her dad,” said Ms. Evile.
The witness agreed that Ms. Kelsall answered back to Lam, she did not look at him in the eye and ignored him.
Ms. Evile described Ms. Kelsall as someone who is like a sister to her.
The lawyer then put it to Ms. Evile that her view of Lam was influenced by Ms. Kelsall, and what she had told their family in Apolima about him.
He also put it to her because of that it made it easier for her to tell lies about what unfolded on that day.
“No she didn’t like him but I saw him as a stranger, it was only aunty Pai that cared for me when I was in Sinamoga.”
The witness added: "I didn’t tell a lie."
Leiataualesa said Lam will give evidence that he did not strangle Ms. Kelsall as he had put his hand on her chin so she can look up at him.
The lawyer added that Lam’s daughter was playing on the X-Box and it was Ms. Kelsall that turned off the T.V.
“Kolani had told Talei that she should have let Jazelle played X-Box because she was there first but she stood up and slammed the door when he was talking to her.
“He entered the room and told Talei why it was unfair what she did but she looked down so he put his hand on her chin to make her look up to him.”
But Ms. Evile disagreed with the lawyer.
She maintained that Lam had put his hand on Ms. Kelsall.
“I was there I saw it,” she told the Court. “No that is not what happened, he strangled her.”
The lawyer also raised questions about an incident where Lam confronted Ms. Evile and Ms. Kelsall, for making up the story when Sa’u was now back in Samoa.
In response, Ms. Kelsall said Lam had asked her and her cousin about the incident infront of Sa’u but they did not respond to him.
“Yes we stood there and we didn’t say anything,” said the 12-year-old.
“We knew aunty Pai wouldn’t agree with us so we didn’t say anything.”
Ms. Kelsall had given evidence on Monday in relation to the event that took place in 2016.
The young witnesses are two of three witnesses that testified in relation to propensity evidence in the 2016 incident.
The other witness is babysitter name Lele Fuapauna.
The propensity evidence was appealed by defense in which the Court of Appeal ruled against it that it is admissible at trial.
The Court of Appeal also granted an appeal against the order directing trial by a Judge sitting with assessors.
Presiding Judge is Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa.
Ms. Evile was the sole witness that testify in the trial on Wednesday.
The hearing continues.