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By Lave Tuiletufuga

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (March 30, 1999-Samoa Post)---Death by "lethal injection" is recommended by lawmaker Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae, Jr. to punish convicts found guilty of murder in the first degree.

Legislation to this effect was submitted before the full house last week Thursday.

Currently, felons convicted of murder in the first degree are punishable by death, but this normally translates to life imprisonment for not less than 40 years, without probation or parole.

But the Maoputasi legislator who is amending the law -- to permit death by "lethal injection," with strings attached -- told the Samoa Post that his intention is to take pro-active action by approving the ultimate punishment for those who do not "value life."

Muavaefaatasi also noted that he was prompted to mandated the new punishment to address the insurgence of drugs in the territory.

"History tells us that wherever there are drugs, violent death, murder, rape and (other) violent crimes are associated," he said.

Muavaefaatasi also noted that American Samoa did not have a "Maximum Security Prison" in which to confine murderers and other criminals.

"What we have is a Correctional Facility which is very inappropriate to confine and rehabilitate violent criminals. Without a maximum facility, we will have the maximum penalty on our side," he added.

According to the language of the legislation, "if the judge or jury does not recommend the imposition of the death penalty on a finding of guilty of murder in the first degree, the convicted person is punished by imprisonment by the Corrections Divisions for life and is not to be eligible for probation or parole until he served a minimum of 40 years of his sentence."

The legislation needs the consent of both the House of Representatives and Senate before it is transmitted to the Governor for his veto or approval.

The last capital punishment in American Samoa was in the 1950's, when a convicted murderer was hanged to death.

American Samoa has had her fair share of violent deaths in recent years.

The most recent murder, six weeks ago, resulted in the death of the then 63-year old mayor of Vatia, who was shot to death by an ex-convict.

The deceased was shot while taking a shower with his six year old grandson.

The defendant, who was released on probation several months ago, had served three years in jail for an earlier conviction of first degree assault.

Samoa Post P.O. Box 3618 Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 Phone: (1-684)-633-5574 Fax: (1-685)-633-5575 E-mail: SamoaPost@samoatelco

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