A prison inmate accused of murdering a Kiwi Samoan man by drowning him in a water barrel in a Samoan prison has been found not guilty.
Police initially ruled that 28-year-old Hans Dalton had taken his own life at Tafaigata Prison on Boxing Day last year, the day after he had been taken there, news website Talamua reports.
Dalton, who suffered from a mental illness, had been in Samoa visiting relatives when the country was hit by Cyclone Evan, causing severe damage. The disaster meant he was unable to get medication and he became aggressive. He was first taken to hospital and then the police took him to Tafaigata Prison to be restrained during a psychotic episode. He had not committed a crime.
Inmate Jonathan Patrick Crichton, 22, an American Samoan who is serving a life sentence for a 2012 murder, was put on trial in January over Dalton's death.
The prosecution put forward Chrichton had been angered by Dalton who was swearing and calling out.
They said Chrichton entered Dalton's cell by unlocking a padlock and drowned him in a drum half-filled with water used to flush the toilet.
But in the Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Lesa Rapi Va'ai found Crichton to be not guilty - despite a panel of four assessors saying he was guilty in 2012.
Talamua said Chrichton cried after the verdict was read, while hugging his lawyer who was also in tears.
Chrichton then hugged Dalton's family – including his mother, brother and nephew – who had come from New Zealand for the trial.
One of Dalton's relatives told Talamua, "I thank god the honourable judge for the right decision".
Jusdge Va'ai said he will deliver written reasons for overturning the assessors' ruling on Friday.
source: newshub archive