Evidence battle delays trial again

The trial of four men accused of murder was again delayed on Monday after the defence sought to have a ruling allowing Police statements to be admitted as evidence overruled.

The four accused men - Pula Wesley, Faasipa Matuu, Milo Lilomaiava and Peato Upu - are set to appear before Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren in an assessors’ trial. 

The trial had been scheduled to begin on Monday after a long pre-trial hearing on the admissibility of evidence. 

Last week Leota had challenged whether pre-trial interviews - or “caution statements” - obtained by police in a “voir dire”, or the prelude to a jury trial which determines, among other things, which information is admissible. 

Leota argued that the caution statement of her client was improperly obtained and the procedure followed was unfair. Ponifasio made the same argument about Upu’s caution statement. 

After several days of hearings involving Police who are scheduled to testify as prosecution witnesses and present the caution statements to the court, Justice Tafaoimalo ruled the statements would be admissible. 

But another one of the accused men’s defence attorneys, Sarona Ponifasio, asked the Supreme Court again to refuse to admit police statements on Monday.

Defence attorney Ponifasio is representing Upu; Lilomaiava is represented by Unasa Iuni Sapolu; Wesley is represented by Mauga Precious Chang and Matuu is represented by Leota Tima Leavai.

The defendants each face one count of murder to which they have pleaded not guilty. 

The court will hear the appeal next week on Monday, 29 June, 2020.

The prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office are: Lucy Sio Ofoia and Quentin Sauaga.

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