Five men cleared of killing drunk man in Lami
The High Court in Suva yesterday acquitted five men charged over the death of a man in Lami three years ago.
Sekope Toduadua, his son Sekope Sivoduadua Toduadua, Netani Vakelo and his son James Netani, and Vakelo’s nephew Josese Tawake were charged with one count of manslaughter.
The five were alleged to have caused the death of Savenaca Masi, 36, of Nadonumai in Lami on September 25, 2014.
Mr Masi and Mr Toduadua (Sr) were related through the latter’s wife.
Two assessors returned with a not guilty opinion for all accused persons while the third found Mr Toduadua and his son Sivoduadua and Mr Netani guilty while finding the other two not guilty.
High Court judge Vinsent Perera concurred with the majority opinion of the assessors and acquitted them accordingly.
Judge Perera concluded that some witnesses’ were inconsistent with their testimonies.
The alleged offence took place when the victim was intoxicated and went to his sister-in-law’s house. A scuffle broke out between him and the accused.
The court heard that the defendants chased Masi, and Mr Toduadua (Sr) had kicked Masi’s leg before Mr Netani, and Mr Tawake punched and kicked him.
A witness heard Mr Vakelo telling Masi that if he hit Mr Netani, “he was punching the whole village.”
After the assault, Mr Toduadua (Sr) lifted Masi to sit up before calling for the ambulance. Masi had fallen on a concrete surface during the fight.
Another witness told the court that Mr Masi “used to drink a lot”. The witness said Mr Toduadua (Sr) approached Mr Masi from behind to try and balance him as he was staggering.
Prosecution witness Special Constable Metuisela Galuvakadua told the court that he was informed by Mr Toduadua (Sr) that he had punched Masi to calm him down.
Galuvakadua said he was stationed at the Delainavesi Community Post and attended to a complaint made by Mr Takelo complaining of Masi causing trouble at his house.
He said while making his way to Mr Takelo’s home; he walked past Masi who was lying beside a breadfruit tree.
Defence lawyer Priya Lal represented Toduadua (father), Netani was represented by Christina Choy, Tawake was represented by Panapasa Tawake, Takelo represented by Swarvana Prakash, and Toduadua (son) was represented by Aarti Prakash.
The state prosecution was represented by Jullen Fatiaki and Eoghan Samisoni.