AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT,v.SUI SAPE TAVETE
SUI SAPE TAVETE, Defendant.
High Court of American Samoa
CR No. 14-02
May 8, 2002
by a child during interrogation are not admissible unless, “a parent,
guardian, or legal custodian of the child was present at the interrogation,”
and they were made aware of the child’s rights. A.S.C.A. ‘ 45.0204 (c).
 Proceedings under the Juvenile Justice Act, are not criminal
proceedings but juvenile delinquency proceedings, and a “delinquent
child” is defined by ‘ 45.0103(9)(A) as “any child 10 years or age or
older, who . . . has violated federal, state, or territorial law.”
 The Juvenile Justice Act does not change the common law
applicable to children who allegedly commit crimes of violence.
Before KRUSE, Chief Justice, ATIULAGI, Associate Judge, and
MAMEA, Associate Judge.
Counsel: For Plaintiff, Frederick J. O’Brien, Assistant Attorney General
For Defendant, Bentley C. Adams, III, Assistant Public
FOR MENTAL EXAMINATION
We deny the motion to suppress statements made by the defendant and
the motion seeking a mental examination of the defendant, both of which
were submitted by the defendant, Sui Sape Tavete, on March 11, 2002,
and heard by this court on March 28, 2002. Defendant and both counsel
were present at the hearing.
[1-2] We first deal with defendant’s motion to suppress his statements
made to the police during interrogation. Defendant is being charged
with 1st Degree Burglary, 1st Degree Assault, and attempted 1st degree
Robbery. He was seventeen years old at the time of his arrest for these
crimes. Defendant was apprised of his rights Miranda rights which he
voluntarily waived before making his statements to the police during
interrogation. Under a provision of the Juvenile Justice Act, Title 45,
A.S.C.A., statements made by a child during interrogation are not
admissible unless, “a parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the child was
present at the interrogation,” and they were made aware of the child’s
rights. A.S.C.A. ‘ 45.0204 (c). However, in this matter the Attorney
General’s Office not has charged defendant as a juvenile under the
Juvenile Justice Act, but as an “adult” under the Criminal Justice Act,
Title 46 A.S.C.A. This action is within the Attorney General’s unfettered
prosecutorial discretion, preserved under A.S.C.A. ‘ 45.0115(c)(2).
American Samoa Government v. Julio, 9 A.S.R.2d 128 (1988).
Proceedings under the Juvenile Justice Act, are not criminal proceedings
but juvenile delinquency proceedings, see A.S.C.A. ‘ 45.0115(a)(1), and
a “delinquent child” is defined by ‘ 45.0103(9)(A) as “any child 10 years
or age or older, who . . . has violated federal, state, or territorial law.”
However, the Juvenile Justice Act goes on to make clear that the term
“delinquent child” did “not apply to children 14 years of age or older
who allegedly commit crimes of violence.” ‘ 45.0103(9)(B).
 Therefore, we conclude that at least in terms of children who
allegedly commit crimes of violence, the Juvenile Justice Act does not
change the common law applicable in these matters. Therefore, the
defendant’s motion does not present a question of law to the court and we
find that it is not dispositive on this matter.
A juvenile’s waiver of Miranda rights, like an adult’s waiver of Miranda
rights, is reviewed on the totality of the circumstances, including the
background, experience, and conduct of the defendant. United States v.
Doe, 155 F.3d 1070, 1073 (9th Cir.1998). Lack of parental notification
is one factor to consider. Id. While an important factor to consider, it is
only one of the many factors the court would examine if presented with
the issue. However, the defendant did not present this issue to us and we
decline to examine it at this time.
Next we consider the defendant’s motion seeking a mental examination
to determine his competency to stand trial for the offenses charged.
Defendant has not put forth sufficient evidence for the court to fully
consider whether a mental examination would be desirable in this
instance. Defendant’s counsel’s concerns about his client and some brief
reference to familial trauma do not rise to a level that would compel this
court to act. To the contrary, statute dictates that the defendant is
presumed mentally competent. A.S.C.A. ‘ 46.1306. Furthermore,
competency to stand trial goes to the issue of whether a defendant has a
“sufficient and present ability to consult with his lawyer with a
reasonable degree of rational understanding or a rational as well as
factual understanding of the proceedings against him.” American Samoa
Government v. Taylor, 18 A.S.R.2d 42, 44. (Trial Div. 1990). We have
had nothing to suggest that the defendant is presently unable to assist
counsel in the defense.
Because we find the defendant’s arguments lacking in merit, we deny the
motion to suppress defendant’s statements and the motion for mental
It is so ordered.