Frysna Rimoni testimony spans four hours in closed court

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

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    Polie investigation

Testimony from Frysna Rimoni, the victim in the attempted murder trial who was allegedly shot in the face by Peter Tulaga, spanned approximately four hours last Wednesday, taking up most of the time on day two of Tulaga's trial in the Supreme Court.

Rimoni provided her evidence long distance from New Zealand via video link in the absence of the media and members of the public who were ordered to leave the courtroom for that part of the trial.

Journalists representing eight different media organizations and members of the public exited the courtroom when the order was made.

Only prosecutors and members of the victim's family were allowed to remain inside the courtroom for Rimoni's testimony.

Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren made an order for members of the media and the public to leave the courtroom upon granting an application for a closed court from state prosecutors Ann Matalasi and Leone Su'a Mailo.

Defense attorneys for Tulaga, Faualo Tauiliili Lefau Harry Schuster and Maureen Tuimalealiifano, did not object to the application.

"On the application by prosecution and there being no objection by defense counsel, I make an order pursuant to Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) that is to exclude the public and representatives of news media from this part of the trial. The only people allowed will be the family members, the witness and prosecution as well," said Justice Tafaoimalo.

Rimoni's testimony began close to 1 p.m. after a lengthy delay which lasted more than two hours due to technical difficulties experienced in setting up the video link between Samoa and New Zealand.

Court was adjourned a little after 5 p.m. after Rimoni was cross examined and then re-examined.

Three witnesses testified on Wednesday – Rimoni, the defendant's sister Melania Tulaga and Dr. Petueli Emose, the surgeon who was on call at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital when Rimoni was brought in with serious injuries on her face 15 January, 2019.

Dr. Emose as been a general surgeon for 10 years and a  doctor for 15 years.

When Rimoni was brought into the Emergency Room, she had facial injuries, was conscious but was unable to speak. Blood was pouring out of her face, he said.

The priority was to make sure she was breathing and to minimize the loss of blood. A tube was placed into the victim's trachea to help with breathing and then the doctor assessed and operated on her facial injuries to stop the bleeding.

"This was a life-threatening injury," the doctor said.

When the surgeon examined Rimoni's injuries, he found that she had multiple open shattered facial fractures. She also had a laceration on her lower lip. Her left eye was ruptured, her right eye was questionable but her lower jaw, tongue and airway were intact, Dr. Emose said.

A CT scan was carried out to determine if she suffered any brain injuries. Based on the account given to him, the injuries were caused by a shotgun, said the doctor.

There was a 4 to 5 centimeter  laceration on her left wrist. Dr. Emose said the cut could have been caused by a sharp object or a bullet from a gun.

Tulaga's sister Melania, who began testifying on Tuesday, was cross examined by defense attorney Faualo Tauiliili Lefau Harry Schuster Wednesday morning.

Nurses testified Tuesday that Tulaga's sister told them a sharp object was used on the victim before she was shot.

  Melania denied making the statement.

The hearing continues Thursday with testimony from doctors in New Zealand  who also treated Rimoni for her injuries. The doctors will give evidence via video link.

Presiding over the trial is Justice Tafaoimalo and a panel of assessors comprised of two women and three men.

Prosecution plans to call more than 30 witnesses. As of Wednesday afternoon, 13 have testified.

Prosecutors contend that on

January 15, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. the victim went to Tulaga’s home (which belongs to the defendant’s mother) in Vailoa.

At the time, the defendant and the victim were in a relationship. An argument over suspicion of dishonesty took place.

As a result of the argument, Tulaga fired a shotgun at Rimoni's face with the intent to kill her, prosecutors say. It  resulted in serious injuries to the victim's face.

Tulaga is facing four charges: one count of attempted murder, one count of being armed with a dangerous weapon, one count of possession of an unlicensed firearm and one count of causing grievous bodily harm.