Court denies request for expert witness as Lam trial ends

The Supreme Court has denied an application to call an expert witness in the murder trial of former Unit Trust of Samoa C.E.O., the late Sa’u Justina Fa’asamoa. 

Defense lawyer, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, who is acting for accused, Kolani Junior Lam, made the application for the Court to adjourn the hearing while an expert witness is called. 

Lam is accused of the murder of his wife Sa’u in October last year, common assault on his step-daughter and conspiracy to defeat the course of justice. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.  

The expert witness was supposed to be the last witness for the defense before it closes its case on Wednesday. 

But Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa rejected the application, pointing out that a notice requirement for the expert witness should comply with section 51 of the Criminal Procedures Act 2016. 

According to the Act, if a defendant proposes to call a person as an expert witness, it must give notice at least 10 working days before the date is fixed for the hearing. 

Justice Tuatagaloa also noted that the powers of the Court to grant an adjournment, pursuant to section 94 of the same Act, is specifically to adjourn the trial for witnesses. 

Prosecution and Assistant Attorney General, Magele Leone Su’a had opposed the application from defense. 

She argued that the application not be granted as it is not in the interest of justice and should have been made on 30 September. 

Following the decision from the Court to deny the application, Leiataualesa closed the defense case after calling three witnesses including Lam. 

Lawyers will file their final submissions on 7 November before a date for a verdict is set. 

Relatives of Sa’u including her 43-year-old mother from the village of Apolima were present in the more than two weeks-long trial. 

The former C.E.O. of U.T.O.S. was in her third term in office when she passed away – a week after her birthday last year. 

Her families from overseas also flew in to listen to the hearing and the different evidence revealed in Court.

Prosecution called about 20 witnesses in the trial ranging from specialist doctor, family members of Sa’u, her close friends and others. 

On the first day of the trial, prosecution called Sa’u’s daughter, Talei Justina Kelsall and her niece Carena Evile. 

The young witnesses gave evidence in relation to an alleged strangulation of Ms. Kelsall by the accused in 2016.

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Sa’u’s mother and older brother also testified about how they perceived Lam as alcoholic and disliked him since the alleged strangulation of Ms. Kelsall.  

A string of babysitters who looked after Lam and Sa’u’s children also took the witness box on the second week of the trial. 

The babysitters gave similar accounts alleging that Lam was abusive and violent towards Sa’u.

They also testified that several alleged incidents often occur when the accused and the deceased drink and argue at home. 

Another key witness from the prosecution was a pathologist from Australia. 

The medical specialist gave evidence on the multiple injuries found on Sa’u’s neck as well as also bruising found on her arms and knees. 

He told the Court that the deceased could not have received the multiple injuries from a single application or from hanging alone. 

Other witnesses who gave evidence were Sa’u’s closest friends who spoke about the many plans they had made with the deceased for the future. 

Some of those plans include Sa’u aspirations to become a parliamentarian after her retirement. 

From the defense side, Lam was the first to testify and deny the allegations that he killed his wife. 

It is his evidence that Sa’u had in fact took her own life, when he found her hanging from a starfruit tree on the early hours of a Sunday morning. 

The 39-year-old father from Sinamoga maintained he loved Sa’u and had made plans to move to New Zealand and have more children after receiving his citizenship. 

For the two days that Lam took the stand, he denied being abusive towards his deceased wife and stated he was very protective of her. 

Unemployed after he resigned from his previous employment in 2017, Lam dismissed allegations that he strangled his step-daughter. 

The second witness for defense was Lam’s ex-wife who described him as a loving father to his children and humble. 

She disagreed with claims that Lam was a wife-beater. 

The last witness for Lam was his sister from New Zealand, who testified about her conversations with Sa’u claiming that Sa’u had told her that her brother never laid a hand on her.  

Lam’s family including his parents and siblings that all reside in New Zealand were in the Courtroom for the duration of the trial to support the father. 

The matter was presided by a Judge alone after the Court of Appeal granted an application to exclude a panel of assessors for the murder trial. 

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