Father not guilty of incest, faces fresh challenge
A panel of assessors has found a father-of-six not guilty of raping his teenage daughter - but prosecutors are moving to have that verdict overturned.
The application to have the assessor’s verdict overturned was accepted, giving the prosecution a chance to have the verdict overruled.
Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren presided over the trial that started on Wednesday.
Proceedings on the second day of the trial were delayed because the defendant, whose name has been suppressed by court order, was not at the courthouse.
The father was charged with one count of raping a young person and one count of sexual connection with a young person. He has pleaded not guilty to both trials, sending the case to trial.
The defendant, who showed up albeit late, was absent for his scheduled court appearance because he thought the hearing was adjourned to Friday, his attorney, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, told the Samoa Observer.
Before closing arguments were heard, the assessors – two women and three men – were taken to the alleged crime scene.
During cross-examination on Wednesday, the victim, who has a twin sister, told the court she was watching television with her siblings before the alleged rape took place.
The victim said there are two beds in the house. Her mother was sleeping on one in one corner. The victim was sleeping on the other bed with her siblings: three sisters and brother in another corner of the house.
Justice Tafaoimalo had to briefly stop cross-examination to bring order to the courtroom.
“Can one of you control the answering from the…sorry – there is answering from the audience,” she said.
Members of the victim’s family were talking while court was in session. The court registrar announced that talking was not allowed while the witness was giving evidence.
Shortly afterwards, some members of the girl’s family left the courtroom.
The girl said her father was not sleeping on any of the beds but he was sleeping on the floor, in between two chairs, when he called her to come and scratch his back.
After she scratched her father’s back, the girl fell asleep next to him because she was tired.
“Where was your mother,” Unasa asked.
The girl said her mother was sleeping on the bed while her siblings slept on their bed.
When giving evidence earlier, the girl testified that she was asleep when her father raped her.
During cross-examination she said her eyes were closed but she could feel her father’s action.
“ I wasn’t asleep,” the girl said.
Unasa said: “you went and slept next to your father, he did not come and sleep with you” to which the girl agreed.
When Unasa asked if another man named Pati tried to “night crawl” (moekolo) to her, the girl said she didn't know.
The girl was also asked if she talks to her friends at school about kissing and sex.
“Do you know what sex is,” Unasa asked.
“No,” the girl answered.
The girl maintained that her father initiated the rape.
The defence attorney asked the girl why she didn’t scream and call out for help when she was in pain.
The girl said she did tell her father she was hurting but he said the pain would subside and that she was not to tell anyone what he did.
If she and her father had a conversation, Unasa asked why no one heard their voices.
“My father did say those things to me. My siblings were still asleep, they didn’t hear,” the girl said.
The girl said when her mother turned on the light and found her naked with her father; she told her mother what her father did.
“[That] didn’t happen,” Unasa contested.
She further testified during cross-examination that a man named Mika contacted the police to inform them of the alleged rape.
“What you are saying about your father is a lie,” Unasa said.
The mother of the victim was having an extramarital affair with Mika, the defence argued, thus providing a motive to implicate the girl’s father.
In the end, the assessors believed the defendant who maintained his innocence throughout the matter.
After his acquittal, the defence attorney praised God for the courtroom win.
“Thank you Jehovah God, I lift my praise and worship this [court] case has come to a successful end,” Unasa wrote on social media.
Prosecuting the case from the Attorney General’s Office were Ann Matalasi and Lucy Sio Ofoia.
They’ve made an application to have the court overturn the not guilty verdict.
Justice Tafaoimalo will hear the application on 10 July, 2020.