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Satitoa man sentenced to 9 months in prison for manslaughter

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 30 MARCH 2023: A 32 year old man, Toatasi Uili of Satitoa, Aleipata has been sentenced to 9 months in prison for manslaughter.

In passing her final ruling for the Samoa Supreme Court, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren said despite the loss of a life, the Court noted that the incident with which the defendant was charged was provoked.

The case
Toatasi and four other defendants responded to their female cousins’ call for help after the deceased punched her in the face.

The Court noted that the deceased intended to rape the defendant’s cousin but her scream alerted Toatasi and others who rushed to her aid and beat the deceased who died from the seriousness of the injuries.

The charge
The five accused were charged with murder, however, after defense counsel Fuimaono Sarona Fuimaono interviewed her client Toatasi, the reason behind the assault was revealed.

Prosecution then changed the charge from murder to manslaughter, and only Toatasi opted to plead guilty to the manslaughter charge on 20 February 2023.

Traditional apology & village penalty
The Court noted that the defendant’s family presented a traditional apology – Ifoga  but the deceased’s family rejected the apology.

The village then banished the defendant and his young family which prompted the defendant’s extended family to perform a second Ifoga which was accepted and the village reinstated the defendant and his family.

The sentence
Justice Warren noted the aggravating factors of the offence was that violence was involved and the defendant continued to punch the deceased who had fallen to the ground and already sustained injuries.

Justice Tafaomalo Leilani Tuala Warren
Justice Tafaomalo Leilani Tuala Warren

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren who handed down her last decision as she ends her time as a Judge of Samoa’s Supreme Court. File Photo.

For the mitigating factors, she took into account the defendant’s good character as corroborated by his family, church minister and village mayor.

She also considered the fact that the defendant was a first offender, was genuinely remorseful, his personal circumstances, reliable and supportive, his productive contribution to the village and church, an early guilty plea to the charge and that the incident was provoked.

Prosecution asked for an 8 year starting point for sentence while defense asked for 3 years.

“In accessing the criminology of the action of the accused, I will take into account the provocation from the deceased into a starting point and a custodian sentence will be imposed because of the loss of a life and circumstances surrounding it,” said Justice Warren.

Taking into the factors of the case Justice Warren settled for a 5 years starting point for sentencing.

From the 5 years, Justice Warren deducted

  • 12 months for the Ifoga and reconciliation.
  • 4 months for remorse.
  • 6 months good character & first offender,
  • 6 months for personal circumstances.
  • 10 months for village penalty and
  • 12 month for pleading guilty at an early stage.

“Any sentence handed down in court cannot compare to what you are going through and that is the knowledge that you will carry for as long as you live that a life has been lost because of you,” said Justice Warren.

The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 9 months and the time he was in custody to be deducted from the sentence.