Court of Appeal asked to overturn conviction

The Court of Appeal has been asked to overturn a conviction for a man who was found guilty of murder after he severed another man’s windpipe with a kitchen knife.

The Court of Appeal convened on Monday. Presiding are Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, Justice Robert Lloyd Fisher and Justice Sir Peter Blanchard.

Justice Fisher and Justice Blanchard are in New Zealand. They are presiding via video link.

An appeal to the murder conviction against Uimaitua Papalii Samuelu was the first matter heard by the Court of Appeal.

Samuelu was found guilty of murder by a panel of assessors and the murder conviction was handed down by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.

Defence lawyer, Leota Tima Leavai, says the appeal is two-fold: 

1) There was reasonable doubt as far as the fatal injury that caused the death of the victim and; 

2) That if the Court accepts the injury was not done with the intent to kill the victim, the conviction should be for manslaughter.

The assessors, she said, “misunderstood the evidence.”

The only people present during the incident were the defendant and the victim.

Samuelu, said Leota, entered the victim’s home with a kitchen knife wanting to “pay back” the victim for a previous incident.

The victim lunged at the defendant, threw a punch at Samuelu and injured himself on the knife held by the defendant, she added.

“The deceased ran into the knife and impaled himself…that is when the injury occurred,” said Leota.

The pathologist who testified during the trial said “it was highly unlikely but not impossible” that the deceased impaled himself.

“The defendant did not cause the injury, the deceased unfortunately, God bless his soul, ran into the knife,” Leota argued.

The Court questioned how the knife ended up in the defendant’s neck and severed the victim’s windpipe.

Leota said the assessors should have explored “intent” a bit more. Prosecutors on the case Magele Leone Sua Mailo and Lucymaria Sio Ofoia did not need to respond.

The court said “there was no miscarriage of justice” and found there was no reason to confer on the matter.

The Court of Appeal is scheduled to deliver its verdict on Friday 7 August 2020.

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