AMERICAN SAMOA SENATE REJECTS CALL TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (July 31, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---The American Samoa Senate last week rejected Governor Tauese Sunia's proposal to abolish the territory's 30-year-old death penalty law.

Although the death penalty exists, the method to carry it out is not in the law books. Why the Senate rejected the proposal is unknown, but the proposed law remains alive in the Territorial House of Representatives.

Rep. Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae, Jr., chairman of the House Public Safety Judiciary Committee, said public hearings will be held this week to gather input from the public, including the legal profession, on the propose law.

Rep. Muavaefaatasi has tried and failed twice to pass legislation in the last 12 months that would provide the method to carry out the death penalty.

Governor Tauese Sunia has called the death penalty "an archaic and cruel method of punishment, which is contrary to modern ideals of justice."

American Samoa law stipulates 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 parole until 40 years is served in jail.

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