Man who killed wife's past domestic violence revealed

A Lalomanu man who killed his 50-year-old wife with a single slap that caused her to fall and die in a 'freak' accident asked a court to set him free. But new evidence he previously was convicted of perpetrating violence against her emerged in his sentencing hearing on Tuesday.

Up until the sentencing hearing on Tuesday both the prosecution and defence were united in agreement that Sosene Liona Lu’itau had committed an accident and deserved a non-custodial sentence. 

Lu’itau's family members, including his children, showed up to court to support him at what was expected to be his sentencing on Tuesday.

But the unexpected revelation of new information from the defendant’s past postponed his sentencing. 

The matter was adjourned after Supreme Court Justice Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma, confirmed that the defendant has a previous conviction for violence against his wife. The defendant was convicted of assault against his wife in 2017 and sentenced to six months’ community service.

The prosecutor, Fuifui Ioane, told the court they were not informed of the previous conviction by Police.

Justice Fepulea’i adjourned sentencing until next week to allow the prosecution time to update their records to include the defendant’s previous conviction.

He adjourned sentencing to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 July, 2020.

The defence counsel Mauga said if the prosecution changed their position for sentencing, she would also ask the court for time to respond.

Up until the events of Tuesday, it appeared likely that Lu’itau, who was said to have slapped his wife causing her to fall backwards and die in a freak accident, would not go to prison. 

The prosecutor, Mr. Ioane, had recommended a non-custodial sentence.

The lawyer for Lu’itau, Mauga Precious Chang, also told the court they supported a recommendation for him to receive no prison time, adding it is appropriate under the circumstances.

“It was definitely not something that was anticipated,” Mauga argued.

“As [is] clear from the summary of facts, It was a slap, one slap in which the wife of my client fell down […i] t’s one of those incidents which clearly was not intended and the death was clearly an accident as a result of the assault,” 

She said her client is not making excuses and has taken responsibility for his actions.

The defendant was also, the court was told, in a stressful situation in the aftermath of having found himself the only breadwinner in the family.

“And [he is feeling] constant anger coming home because of working day and night at the plantation as well as going fishing just to put food on the table for his children,” said Mauga.

“His children have helped him throughout this whole incident and he is truly remorseful about what happened. He wants the opportunity to make it up to his children. 

“He is someone who has looked after his children and wants to make sure his children [to] have a better life than he has had.”

Lu’itau’s children provided the court with character reference letters for their father.

Mauga said her client is very involved in his community and letters to support his involvement were also provided to the court.

“He is also someone very involved in his village community and involved in his Church as shown in the reference from the pulenu’u (village mayor) as well as [from] a Reverend from the [Congregational Christian Church of Samoa], Your Honour,” she said. 

“There has also been an ifoga (traditional apology) performed to the wife’s family in which $5,000 tala was given as well as fine mats worth $10,000. There was also a village apology performed again by the defendant’s family by which sums of money was also given to the village.

“The defendant poses no threat to the community and imprisonment will not serve any good.

“He has already suffered a lot throughout this whole process and he is willing…he has been undertaking some programmes, personal programmes, with his Church Reverend to try and discuss and get out his anger,” Mauga said. 

“I have discussed with the probations office and they also have [mentioned his participation in an] anger management program…we stand before the court seeking a chance to make sure another parent is not taken away from his children but to make sure he has to take the responsibility of his and his deceased wife, making sure that his children end up with a good life.

“Since this has happened, his children’s lives have been interrupted but he has tried to support his children making sure that they still go to school, except for the youngest one who was the main witness for the prosecution. But now, the youngest one is back with the family and he is trying to put him back into school…he wants a better life for his children so they don’t end up living the life that he had to live.”

Justice Fepulea’i said the prosecution’s written submission there was a reference to the accused being a first-time offender but pointed out that the defendant has appeared before in another violence-related matter in 2017.

The previous conviction was contained in the notes of Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese, who tasked Justice Fepulea’i with sentencing in the case in earlier proceedings, due to a conflict of interest.

Justice Fepulea’i said he will allow the defence the opportunity to respond next week to the new information.

The defendant has been remanded on bail with an obligation to sign-in with Police. 

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