Sia in court: Psych check request

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 10 June 2024, 7:30PM

Well-known playwright Sia Figiel's lawyer has asked for a gag order as the murder accused appeared for the first time in court on Monday. 

Figiel is alleged to have brutally killed retired Professor Caroline Sinaviana Gabbard in Vaivase-uta.

The suppression order is being sought pending an application for a psychological assessment for Figiel. 

Fiegel appeared before Supreme Court Justice, Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma. Unasa Iuni Sapolu acted for Fiegel and asked for a temporary prohibition order suppressing the publication of facts connected to the case. 

She noted much has been said about her client and it may affect her fundamental rights under the Constitution namely her right to a fair trial. 

Justice Roma told the defence that there was a lot for him to determine by way of oral submission. 

Unasa insisted there is an issue about Fiegel’s mental fitness that needs to be considered by the court saying it had been difficult to obtain instructions. 

She also made reference to section 76 of the Criminal Procedure Act which is about determining whether the defendant is fit to stand trial. 

In response, Justice Roma said there isn’t much for the media to report on other than the defendant’s appearance in court. 

He adjourned the matter until 17 June for the prosecution to finalise charges and for the defence to file their applications. Fiegel remains in custody pending her next appearance. 

The U.S. Chargé d'affaires Noriko Horiuchi was also seen outside the court and is believed to have been there in connection with the case. 

Fiegel was initially charged with manslaughter but had it upgraded to murder following preliminary investigation into the death of Prof. Gabbard who is a U.S. national. The case is a high profile one as the deceased was the aunt of former United States congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard who just announced joining Donald Trump in a bid to become the next vice-president.

Prof. Gabbard was also the elder sister of former US senator Mike Gabbard.

According to the police report, Prof. Gabbard, 78-years-old, was found dead at Fiegel’s home in Vaivase-uta a day after she was allegedly murdered. 

Tulsi Gabbard has recently honoured her late aunt saying the brutal killing sent shockwaves through her family. 

“Thank you to all who have taken the time to send me warm messages of prayers and condolences in the wake of my aunt’s tragic murder in Samoa,” Ms. Gabbard said in a tribute posted to social media. 

“My aunt Caroline was my dad’s only sister, and the only relative of ours who lived in Hawaii when I was growing up,” the former congresswoman said in the post.

“I spent a lot of time with her as a kid at her cottage in the back of Manoa Valley where she often shared her poetry with me, and encouraged me to pursue my own writing,” she added.

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 10 June 2024, 7:30PM
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