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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (July 13, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---Governor Tauese Sunia is calling on the abolishment of the territory’s death penalty law.

Tauese, the son of a church minister, told local lawmakers that he is submitting legislation that "would abolish the death penalty from our local laws."

The governor noted that although the Territory has a death penalty, the method to carry it out is not indicated in the law books.

"The law only indicates the death penalty," said the Governor, noting that many countries have abolish such penalties. "Let’s follow examples of other Christian nations where the death penalty does not exist but instead let a convicted person serve life in jail."

Rep. Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae Jr. introduced two legislations in the last 12 months that call for a method of carrying out the death penalty, but was defeated in heavy debates on the floor.

One method was lethal injection and the second was the electric chair.

American Samoa laws stipulate that persons convicted of first-degree murder shall "be punished by death." If the death sentence is not recommended by jury or judge, the person shall serve life in prison and is not eligible for probation or parole until 40-years is served in jail.

"Although ‘an eye for an eye’ is written in the Bible, I believe that replacing the death penalty with at least 40 years in jail before being eligible for parole is sufficient for a major crime," he reflected.

The last death sentence carried out in American Samoa was in 1951, when a man was hung for killing another person with a bush knife.

"The death penalty is an archaic and cruel method of punishment, which is contrary to modern ideas of justice. It is also inconsistent with our Christian heritage where as our motto states ‘Samoa, let God be first,’" the governor said.

"Not only is the death penalty archaic and cruel, it is proven unnecessary where it has virtually never been imposed. Since the turn of the century, the death penalty has been carried out only once, and done during the U.S. Navy’s governance of American Samoa," Sunia added.

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