Four men plead guilty to manslaughter

Four men have changed their pleas to guilty to a joint charge of manslaughter over the death of 38-year-old, Sauiluma Kasiano, in Savai’i in August last year.

Defendants Foaga Ipu Piki, Leu Saulo, Paulo Mika and Mamoe Aiesi appeared in the Supreme Court before Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren in a trial of assessors [three women and two men]. 

Prosecutors Lucymaria Sio Ofoia and Quentin Sauaga as well as defense lawyers, Arthur Lesa, Afamasaga Michael Soonalole, Charlie Vaai and Leiataualesa Komisi Koria met with Justice Tafaoimalo in chambers on Wednesday morning.

The four defendants of Samalaeulu changed their plea to guilty after the lawyers emerged from their meeting with the presiding Justice.

They are charged jointly with a count of manslaughter that resulted in the death of Kasiano also of Samalaeulu; one count of throwing stones; and one count of armed with a dangerous weapon, namely a stone. 

For the manslaughter charge, the defendants were charged as parties to the crime. In the throwing stones and armed with a dangerous weapon charge, they were charged as principals.

Ofoia, in her opening submission to the Court, said the case involved a group beating by four young and able-bodied men (the defendants) and the deceased in Kasiano who has left behind seven children.

The Court heard that on the evening of Saturday, August 31, 2019 the defendants were drinking vodka at the residence of Piki. The deceased was also drinking alcohol, namely a Taula, after picking up his father from Salelologa wharf and was driving around in his car.

After their “drink-up”, the four defendants made their way to the road in the evening and hung out by the roadside that night, submitted Ofoia.

Later that same evening, the deceased drove past the area where the defendants were hanging out. He was intoxicated and swore loudly that the defendants heard him. 

One of the defendants threw a rock at the car belonging to the deceased and it hit the vehicle’s body. The defendants then waited for the car to return, and when it did one defendant threw a rock at it. 

Consequently, the deceased stopped his vehicle by the roadside, near the area where the defendants were sitting. The defendants then approached the vehicle and started throwing rocks at it while the deceased was still in the car. 

When the deceased got out of the vehicle to approach the men, they continued to throw rocks at him, which hit him and injured his head and saw him falling to the ground. The defendants allegedly ran away from the scene.

 The deceased was then taken to the Tuasivi Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. 

All the four defendants threw rocks at the deceased causing his head injuries.

“These head injuries led to Sauiluma’s death,” Ofoia told the Court.

Family members of the defendants traveled from Savai’i for the trial as well as witnesses who were scheduled to testify at the hearing. Fifteen people are scheduled to testify as prosecution witnesses and include those who were present before, during and after the incident. 

Police officers who investigated the case as well as the forensic pathologist who examined the  body of the deceased are also scheduled to testify.

One prosecution witness took the stand on Tuesday, police constable Telima Sitiveni of Satupaitea in Savai’i, who photographed the crime scene and created a sketch.

Mr Sitiveni is stationed at the Vaitoomuli Police Station and has worked in forensics for several years, he submitted to the Court.

His evidence includes 18 crime scene photographs taken on the public road in Samalaeulu as well as his description of the shattered glass within and outside the vehicle from the broken windows. 

One photograph showed a rock lying inside the vehicle belonging to the deceased. 

The Court scheduled the next court appearance for the four defendants on Thursday, August 20 to give more time to all the parties to prepare their submissions.

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