Samoan prisoner acquitted of New Zealand man's murder
Samoa's Supreme Court Judge overturns a jury's guilty verdict, acquitting a prisoner of the 2012 murder of a New Zealand man at Tafaigata jail.
A Supreme Court judge in Samoa has acquitted a man charged with murder over the death of a 38 year old mentally ill New Zealand man.
The victim, Hans Dalton, was found dead in a drum of water at Tafaigata prison on Boxing Day in 2012.
The judge, Lesatele Rapi Vaai, yesterday overturned the decision of the four person assessors' panel which found Jonathan Patrick Crichton guilty after less than 2 hours of deliberation.
The acquitted man - already in prison serving a life sentence for another murder - retracted his original plea of guilty; telling the court he was confused by police questioning.
Our correspondent, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, was at the Supreme Court in Apia thoughout the case and Jenny Meyer asked him about the reaction to the judge's decision.
Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia: Well it was interesting the mother of Hans Dalton, during the trial, she was in support of Johnathan Patrick Crichton's change of plea from 'guilty' to 'not guilty'. Because she believes that her son was not killed by Johnathan; it was the fault of the police at Tafaigata Prison.
Jenny Meyer: And how does she come to that conclusion? Does she believe that it was a breach of their care of all of the prisoners?
ATA: That's what she believes. She believes there was a breach of their care by the Tafaigata Prison officers, because of the evidence she heard in court and also from the beginning of the case.
JM: There was one report that in fact the acquitted man actually hugged the victim's mother and family?
ATA: Yes, that's what happened in the courtroom yesterday.
JM: Tipi, do you think it raises the question of mental health services being a little bit inadequate there? I understand that the man who died was in fact having some sort of mental health crisis over the Christmas period and there was nowhere for him to go, except for to prison.
ATA: Yes. Evidence that was heard in court shows that the deceased was violent when he was taken to the psychiatric ward at the National Hospital in December 2012. And I think that violence by the deceased resulted in the doctor transferring Hans Dalton to police supervision at Tafaigata Prison. And according to evidence by Johnathan Patrick Crichton; on the night before his death he was screaming in the cell, you know, non-stop.
JM: Is there any question of suicide at all?
ATA: There was none.
JM: No. Ok.
ATA: But to answer directly to your question: I think it's now bells ringing for the government and the Ministry of Health, to speed up the process of having a proper psychiatric ward for the psychiatric patients. And I believe the second phase of the Chinese funded hospital, we're going to have a new psychiatric ward there.
JM: The judge is going to be giving some statement on Friday I believe regarding his reasons behind his decision to overturn the jury's initial conclusion?
ATA: Yes. And then that's when we will find out the grounds of his ruling to overturn the guilty verdict.
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