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Sia Figiel makes first court appearance on charge of murder

Samoa courthouse

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sia Figiel made her first appearance in court yesterday after being arrested and charged with murder. The well-known playwright and poet is alleged to have killed retired Professor Caroline Sinaviana Gabbard in Vaivase-uta.

A gag- order is being sought pending an application for a psychological assessment for Figiel. 

Figiel appeared before Supreme Court Justice, Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma with Samoa attorney Unasa Iuni Sapolu acting for Figiel. The attorney asked for a temporary prohibition order suppressing the publication of facts connected to the case. 

She was quoted in the Samoa Observer saying much has been said about her client and it may affect her fundamental rights under the Constitution — her right to a fair trial. 

Justice Roma told the defense that there was a lot for him to determine by way of oral submission. 

Unasa insisted there is an issue about Figiel’s mental fitness that needs to be considered by the court saying it had been difficult to obtain instructions. 

She also made reference to section 76 of the Samoa Criminal Procedure Act which is about determining whether the defendant is fit to stand trial. 

In response to the request for a temporary prohibition order, Justice Roma said there isn’t much for the media to report on other than the defendant’s appearance in court. 

He adjourned the matter until June 17, in order for the prosecution to finalize charges and for the defense to file their applications. Figiel remains in custody pending her next appearance. 

According to the Observer, the U.S. Chargé d'affaires Noriko Horiuchi was also seen outside the court and is believed to have been there in connection with the case. 

Figiel was initially charged with manslaughter but had it upgraded to murder following preliminary investigation into the death of Prof. Gabbard, who is a U.S. national

According to the police report, Prof. Gabbard, 78-years-old, was found dead at Figiel home in Vaivase-uta a day after she was allegedly murdered.