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Appeal on Sapapalii murder dismissed

A man sentenced to life imprisonment for the death of another male from Sapapalii has had his appeal against his conviction dismissed by the Court of Appeal. 

Uimaitua Papalii Samuelu was found guilty in 2019 by a panel of assessors for the murder of Tavita Mauafu during a New Year’s Eve celebration in Sapapalii.

Samuelu claimed that he was only trying to defend himself from being punched by the deceased, when the knife plunged into his throat and eventually killing him. 

He also told the court that he was beaten up by the deceased twice and this provoked him to go after him for revenge.  

But the Court of Appeal on Wednesday this week ruled in favour of the verdict from the panel of assessors that found the defendant guilty of murder.    

The Appellant Court is presided by Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, Justice Robert Llyod Fisher and Justice Sir Peter Blanchard participating through video link. 

“In those circumstances it could not be said that the verdict of the assessors was unreasonable or unsupported by available evidence,” said the Court of Appeal. 

“The same applies to the decision of the Judge not to interfere with the assessors’ verdict in the exercise of her power to do so under s 136(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2016. 

“This ground of appeal fails.” 

Represented by lawyer Leota Tima Leavai, Samuelu had appeal the decision from the assessor trial, saying it was unreasonable and could not be supported by evidence. 

Leota also claimed there was a miscarriage of justice when he was convicted of the murder given the evidence provided before the court. 

“The conviction was against the weight of the evidence and the presiding Justice erred in law by concurring with the assessors despite that there was an element of reasonable doubt with the evidence,” she added. 

The presiding Judge in the assessor trial was Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren. 

Attorney General’s Office lawyer Magele Leone Sua and Lucy Sio Ofoia are the prosecutors. 

The Court found that it is undisputed that the death was due to the defendant’s knife entering the deceased’s neck. 

It was also not disputed that the knife was in the defendant’s hand when it entered the deceased’s neck. 

But defense lawyer Leota had denied the suggestion from the bench that the defendant might have been immobile when the deceased ran onto the knife. 

The Court of Appeal dismissed the grounds of appeal rejecting claims that the verdict by the assessors was unreasonable or unsupported by available evidence. 

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