A Supreme Court judge has criticised the number of indictments brought in a murder case, saying they could confuse the jury.
Mr Justice Cato said there was also some merit in a complaint by defence lawyer Clive Edwards that the accused had been prejudiced by the multiple counts against them and an unnecessarily long winded indictment.
Halahone Taliai and Sione Vea were brought before the court on multiple charges relating to the death of ʻAiveni Teisina during a machete attack in a parking lot in Vaini on October 23, 2016.
As Kaniva Tonga News reported at the time Teisina died from his injuries at Vaiola Hospital on October 24, 2016.
He was survived by his wife and a four-year old daughter.
Mr Justice Cato said Crown accepted that Taliai was responsible for the victim’s death by machete wounds. Vea used a hammer to also effect injury, but not any fatal injury.
He said the Crown had laid four alternative counts of murder against Taliai.
He said two of the charges were unnecessary and there seemed to be no point in a third.
“The danger of the present indictment of multiple murder counts is that it is confusing and may cause the jury difficulty in arriving at unanimous verdicts,” the judge said.
The jury could convict Talia of murder if they found he had murderous intent and caused Teisina’s death.
If the jury was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Taliai was guilty of murder, he could be convicted of manslaughter if they thought he caused the death of the victim by deliberately committing an unlawful act that resulted in death.
Mr Justice Cato also questioned the indictments brought against Vea. He said it was wrong to separately indict for several counts of murder.
“Each accused should face one count of murder, manslaughter as an alternative and a lesser offence, grievous bodily harm or serious harm as an alternative to manslaughter,” he said.
“I consider that the present counts in the indictment may give rise to confusion, error in principle, and also there is an element as Mr Edwards complained of prejudice occasioned by an unnecessarily prolix indictment and several counts in relation to each man of murder.”