Samoan Judge Overrules Verdict In Hans Dalton Case

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Assessors found accused Jonathan Crichton guilty of murder

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Feb. 4, 2014) – A Supreme Court judge this afternoon ruled a prisoner was not guilty of the murder of a Kiwi Samoan in Samoa’s Tafaigata Prison.

In doing so Judge Lesa Rapi Va’ai overruled a guilty verdict by the trial assessors or jury.

The four assessors, two men and two women, found Jonathan Patrick Crichton guilty of the murder of Hans Dalton on 26 December 2012.

In overruling the assessors Judge Va’ai cited Section 100 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1972 which gives him the power to do so.

Section 100 says, "If the presiding Judge is of the opinion that the defendant should not be convicted, or if less than 3 out of 4 or 4 out of 5, as the case may be, of the assessors concur in the defendant’s conviction, the defendant shall be acquitted."

Judge Va’ai said he will deliver his written reasons for his ruling on Friday.

Tears flowing, Crichton stood after the verdict and hugged his lawyer Rosella Papali’i, who was also in tears.

He then hugged Dalton’s mother Christine Wilson, Dalton’s brother and nephew, who had come from New Zealand for the trial – and local relatives of the deceased.

"Thank God it has ended and I feel strengthened by the court’s decision," Crichton said.

One of Dalton’s local relatives said, "I thank the Honourable Judge for the right decision."

His other relatives did not want to comment.

Today’s ruling concluded a trial which started Monday 20 January.

Crichton, 22 of Malifa and Tafuna, American Samoa, is serving a life sentence for a murder committed in 2012.

Dalton, a mental patient had been removed from a resort where he was on holiday with family by health staff when he became aggressive and taken with help from Police to hospital where he was kept on 23 and 24 December.

Early evening on Christmas Day 2012, mental patient Hans Dalton was transferred from hospital to Tafaigata Prison.

He was kept in one of the rooms allocated for defendants remanded in custody, which at the time included Crichton – who was convicted for murder in February 2013.

In short Crichton was charged with the murder of Dalton before he was convicted of the murder of another person.

In Dalton’s case, the prosecution alleged Crichton was angry at the noise the Kiwi made by swearing, calling out, punching the door and wall all night long.

Crichton entered Dalton’s room by unlocking a padlock and drowned him in a 44-gallon drum half-filled with water inside the room.

The water was used to flush the toilet.

Police found Dalton head first in the drum on the morning of 26 December after Crichton and another custody, Siliva Suitupe, had called both out to alert them of the fact.

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