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Motion from Siaumau, asking to interview jurors under advisement

Thomas Siaumau leaving the court house in a Samoa News file photo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Trial Division of the High Court has taken under advisement a motion last week by Thomas Siaumau and his attorney, for a court order to allow them to interview jurors who delivered the guilty verdict in Siaumau’s trial last month.

A hearing for the second motion by the defense for a new trial is set for May 9, 2019.

Sentencing for Siaumau was set for last Thursday, Apr. 18, after a jury found him guilty of 7 charges (3 felonies and 4 misdemeanors) after a 1 1/2 week trial.

However, Associate Justice Fiti Sunia granted the defense’s motion to reschedule the sentencing date, so that they can argue motions, which are now before the court.

Defense attorney Richard deSaulles represented Siaumau during the hearing last Thursday, while Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey appeared for the government.

deSaulles told the court that he still maintains his argument — from last month’s hearing — that there were external influences that warrant an investigation and an interview of jurors.

He said a text from Prosecutor Christy Dunn to police officers on the eve of the final day of the jury trial, for DPS to make a showing in the courtroom, may have influenced the jurors' decision.

He said a lot of uniformed cops were present in court on the last day of trial, and he reminded the court of a Facebook post by prosecutor Dunn, posted the night before the last day of trial, asking that as many police officers as possible be present in court to show the jury their support.

deSaulles said the move by Dunn may have caused alarm that there was  communication between the government and members of the jury during the trial. He said this is grounds for a new trial.

Among the other grounds cited by deSaulles for a new trial: there was one witness they were not able to interview; the defense has reason to believe two jurors were related to police officers and it was necessary for the defense to take leave from the court’s order not to talk to jurors post verdict to determine if indeed the presence of police officers the day the verdict was delivered influenced the verdict; he believes the sudden appearance of many uniformed police officers in court that morning may have intimidated the jury.

Prosecutor Garvey strongly opposed the motion. She said the defense doesn't have any new evidence to support its motion. Additionally there were uniformed police officers standing guard outside the courthouse and immediate vicinity during trial, and the defense never raised any objections.

Regarding the Facebook post, Garvey claimed that counsel Dunn had nothing to do with it. She said nobody from the prosecution, including police officers, had any communication with any juror during trial.

The government’s attorney has asked the court not to allow the defendant and his team to speak to jurors. She said the verdict is already out and the integrity of jurors must not be compromised just so the defense can go on a fishing expedition.

deSaulles said he wanted the court to know that prior to the issuance of the court’s order the day after the verdict was out, two jurors had agreed to meet with them that same day to discuss some issues pertaining to the verdict.

The defense attorney said their intention is not to impeach the verdict already delivered but instead, they want to find out from jurors if there was anybody from the government who communicated with any of them, at any point, during trial.

Siaumau, who is still in custody, was found guilty of shooting at a police vehicle while a police officer was inside on the night of Dec. 14, 2017.