"I WANT YOU TO KILL LUAGALAU": SAMOA MURDER TRIAL UNDER WAY

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By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA, Samoa (January 18, 2000 – Samoa Observer)---The Supreme Court heard testimony that Alatise Vitale was ordered by his father to kill the late Public Works Minister Luagalau Leva Kamu.

"I want you to kill Luagalau," Alatise was reportedly told by his father. "You are the oldest, so you must listen to me, walk in my footsteps."

Alatise's father, Leafa Vitale, is a former cabinet minister and one of the two defendants charged with Luagalau's murder.

The second defendant, Toi Aokuso Cain, is also a former cabinet minister.

The court also heard that Toi referred to Lualagalau as a "dog hard to catch." So Leafa told Toi to leave Luagalau to his son. He told Alatise, "When you see the dog blow him."

But that was not all that Leafa told his son to do. He also told him to "kill the judge" in what Attorney General Brenda Heather described as a "plot" to kill senior government officials.

This evidence is contained in the opening submission by the prosecution delivered by Heather. She is assisted by attorney George Latu of the Attorney General’s Office and New Zealand barrister Kieran Raftery, a partner in the law firm of Meredith Connell & Co., who are Crown Solicitors for Auckland.

The hearing is taking place at the Congregational Christian Church's Youth Centre at Mulinu'u.

His Honor Andrew Wilson is presiding in the five-assessor trial. (See following story.)

Heather told the court that Alatise's full evidence will be heard in court in due course, and other witnesses will testify in support of the prosecution's case.

But outlining the main points in Alatise's evidence, Heather said that in June 1999, Alatise was picked up at his father's plantation at Vaovai, Falealili, and taken to his father's office at the government building in Apia.

Leafa was Minister of Women Affairs at the time.

When Alatise arrives, he finds Toi Aokuso (in the office) so Toi leaves, and he and his father had a talk. Leafa says to him he wants him to kill Luagalau. You are the oldest, you must listen to me, walk in my footsteps. Leafa then showed Alatise papers and explained that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Lands and the Environment and Luagalau, all wanted to take everything from him and Toi Aokuso. "All these people want to take everything from me and Toi," Leafa told his son.

Referring to a hearing of a customary matter involving his family at Malie at the Lands and Titles Court, Leafa reminded him that their family lost the case. So his advice was: "Kill Leva, then kill the judge who did the case." In return, Leafa promised Alatise a new car and a new house. Before he left, Alatise promised his father, "I will give my decision next week."

Alatise left and Toi went inside. When Alatise was summoned again, his father asked him what he had decided. "I don't know where Luagalau lives," replied Alatise.

So Leafa rented a car and they drove up to Ululoloa where Luagalau lived, with Alatise at the wheel. "They actually drove up to the house (Luagalau's) and Leaga showed Alatise a good spot to shoot from," Heather told the court.

After that, there were a series of visits to the house by Alatise alone. On occasions, he saw Toi driving a van with another person. When he reported this to his father, he also told him he didn't want Toi and his man in the way. He said if he kept running into them, he might shoot them. At this point, Heather said Leafa asked Alatise what kind of gun he wanted to use.

"Small pistol or big one?"

Alatise replied, "Big one."

Sometime later, Heather told the court, Leafa's driver delivered a big gun to Alatise at Leafa's house at Vaitele.

"It was a black gun with a scope," Heather explained.

Alatise then started practicing using the gun. One night, he drove up to Luagalau's home and again saw the "green van" there so he went back.

One day, Leafa asked Alatise when he was going to "do it." He also told Alatise about the government's Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) having its 20th anniversary on the night of 16 July 1999. That was when Toi, who was apparently present, made the comment that "Luagalau is like a dog, you can't catch him," and Leafa told Toi to leave it to Alatise.

"When you see the dog, blow him," Leafa told Alatise. That evening after drinking in the afternoon, Alatise put the gun in his back and walked to Ululoloa. When he got there, "there were too many dogs" so he left, got a taxi and drove to where the HRPP party was held at St Joseph's Hall at Lotopa. That was where he shot Luagalau at "close range" through an opening in the brick wall while Luagalaua was answering a cellular phone at the back of the stage. Afterwards, Alatise walked from Alafua through Sinamoga to Alamagoto where he got a taxi and drove to the Peninsula Nightclub at Sogi, owned by his father.

Later the night, he went to Vaivai with the gun. This gun was later recovered by the police and was taken for tests in New Zealand along with its parts, such as spent cartridges and cases. Heather told the court the rest would be given as evidence in court.

On Monday after the shooting, Alatise went to his father and asked for his new car and new house. This part of the prosecution's submission was objected to by counsel for the defense, requiring the removal of the assessors from the court. But according to Heather, Alatise's evidence showed there was an "existence of a plot not to kill only the minister but other prominent government officials as well.

"Witnesses will give evidence to confirm Alatise's movements on the night of the murder among scientific evidence."

Heather told the court it was possible that some might ask that if Alatise has been proven to have committed a murder, how then could others be also charged with the same murder? She explained that the law was clear that "if other parties were involved in aiding, abetting, counseling, inciting to murder, they too are equally responsible for the crime."

 

LEAFA, TOI PLEAD NOT GUILTY IN PUBLIC WORKS MINISTER MURDER

By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA, Samoa (January 18, 2000 – Samoa Observer)---Two former Cabinet Ministers, Leafa Vitale and Toi Aokuso Cain, pleaded not guilty in the murder of Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu.

Luagalau died from a gunshot wound on the evening of July 16, 1999.

Leafa's son, Alatise, pleaded guilty in connection with the murder and was given the mandatory death penalty. However, the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Head of Head, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II.

Held at the Congregational Christian Church Youth Centre at Mulinu'u, the murder trial is the first one to be held away from the Supreme Court at Tamaligi, in order to allow the public to attend.

About 100 people attended the first day of the trial. It was difficult to hear from the proceedings when a heavy downpour occurred. After the defendants were arraigned, the assessors were sworn in.

Trial judge, His Honor Andrew Wilson, then advised the five assessors about their duties and responsibilities. He later ordered the suppression of their names and identity, warning the media of severe consequences if they failed to comply.

His Honor told the assessors, "You are to make your decision on the law and the rule of evidence that will be given in this court. It would be a sad day, gentlemen, if the law and the rule of evidence would be abandoned. I will tell you the law to be followed. It is your duty to accept the rules the trial judge will be giving you. Your oath this morning requires you to accept the instructions the trial judge will give you on the law.

"It is not the judge's responsibility to decide the facts. Whatever I may say to you on facts, remember that you are the judge on facts. You may disregard what I may say about the facts. You have the freedom of your opinion and you may make your decision without being influenced about what I say. It is important that you keep an open mind about the evidence of the whole trial.

"There're a number of important matters to know about. There's a presumption for innocence for each of the accused. Each is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"The burden of truth rests with the prosecution. No burden of proof rests with the defense. The standard of proof required is beyond reasonable doubt.

"If at the end of your deliberations you have reasonable doubt (that the charge has been proven), it means it has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. If that is the case, (then you have to) bring a no guilty verdict. Reasonable doubt means (exactly) as it says.

"If the charges are proved, give the verdict of guilty. If not, then (a) not guilty verdict. You should not show favoritism, sympathy or anger towards any one party and not the other. You must not allow yourselves to be affected by sympathy. Any prejudices must be put aside.

"You must not be affected by what you read in the press (about the trial), or seen on TV, or on video, or what you are told by someone. Your deliberations must not be affected by rumors, or your own weaknesses, by only by the evidence you heard in this court. Gentlemen, I warn you about not speaking to anyone about what you hear outside this trial."

They were advised to neither give gifts nor receive them as this could influence their judgment.

His Honor also told the assessors that after they will have given him their verdict, "that is the end of your duty." But he warned them not to discuss their decision with anyone.

"After the trial, you should not discuss how you have reached your decision with anyone else," His Honor said. "In some countries overseas, assessors afterwards have talked to the press. It would be unfortunate if that would happen in Samoa."

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