Fruean; American Samoa Gov’t v.

Series: 31ASR2d | Year: 1996 | 31ASR2d1_1

[31 ASR2d 1]








High Court of American Samoa

Trial Division


CR No. 48-96

CR No. 49-96


October 1, 1996


[1] A change of venue for a criminal prosecution is not available under the Trial Court Rules of Criminal Procedure.


[2] There is not undue prejudice to a criminal defendant so great as to deny a defendant a fair and impartial trial when newspaper accounts of an assault and the victim’s death were largely exculpatory and the government has stipulated that the defendants did not cause the victim’s death.


Before KRUSE, Chief Justice, TAUANU`U, Chief Associate Judge, and ATIULAGI, Associate Judge.


Counsel:           For Plaintiff, Frederick J. O’Brien, Assistant Attorney General

For Defendant Andrew Fruean, David Vargas, Assistant Public Defender

For Defendant Talatino Lavea, Reginald E. Gates, Public Defender


Order Denying Motion to Change Venue:


[1] Defendants’ motion to change venue presupposes that such relief is available under the Trial Court Rules of Criminal Procedure.  It is not.1


[2]  However, even had we adopted a rule similar to F.R.Cr.P. 21, instead of specifically omitting it, the federal rule requires a showing that there exists “so great a prejudice against the defendant that the defendant cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial.”  Defendants have made no such showing.  There exists no more likelihood of prejudice in this case than [31 ASR2d 2] in the number of other highly publicized cases which this court has heard.  We have every confidence that the jury will, as it has in the past, be equal to their solemn duty to render a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence to be presented at the trial and the law as it pertains to this particular case as instructed by the court.


Moreover, the newspaper articles which the defendants complain about have, for the most part, printed exculpatory accounts as to the cause of complainant’s death.  At the same time, the government has to this day stipulated on the record that defendants did not cause the death of the complainant.  Defendants’ claims, therefore, of undue prejudice associated with newspaper accounts of alleged assault coupled with the fact of death, hardly qualify as prejudice so great as to deny the defendants a fair and impartial trial.


The motion for venue change is denied.


It is so ordered.






1  The suggestion to remove this case to Hawaii is specious at best.  Even less tenable, is the idea of possibly holding court in Western Samoa.