Tongan death row inmate returns to court in death of US police officer

by Geoff Dornan, http://www.nevadaappeal.com 'Oku 'i he konga taupotu taha ki lalo 'o e talanoa ni ha fakamatala 'i he lea faka-Tonga

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Siaosi Vanisi was convicted and sentenced to die for the crime after he killed Nevada Police Officer. Photo/Nevada Appeal

The man convicted of murdering University of Nevada, Reno Police Officer George Sullivan will get one more day in court to review whether he should face the death penalty.

Siaosi Vanisi was convicted of ambushing Sgt. Sullivan in his patrol car and killing him with an axe on Jan. 13, 1998. The jury sentenced him to die for the crime.

The Nevada Supreme Court has already upheld the conviction but this past week sent the case back for an evidentiary hearing to decide whether Vanisi was prejudiced by his appellate lawyer’s failure to investigate and present possible mitigating evidence that could have prevented jurors from imposing the death sentence.

Instead, post-conviction lawyers decided to pursue a motion challenging Vanisi’s mental competency, which the high court unanimously agreed was “objectively unreasonable.”

They directed the district court to address “whether trial counsel should have discovered and presented the (mitigation) evidence as well as whether there was a reasonable probability of a different outcome at the penalty hearing had this additional mitigation evidence been presented.”

But the Supreme Court rejected more than a dozen other challenges to Vanisi’s conviction and sentence, including the argument he should have been allowed to plead insanity.

“Vanisi was not in a delusional state such that he could not know or understand the nature and capacity of his act,” the court wrote. The court order points out that Vanisi repeatedly told others he planned to murder a police officer and steal his weapon and radio, that he ambushed the victim at night and fled Nevada, before being arrested in Utah.

“These actions indicate that Vanisi appreciated the wrongfulness of his actions and that post conviction counsel did not act unreasonably in not pursuing (an insanity claim),” the court wrote.

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  1. ‘E toe foki ‘a e tangata Tonga kuo tautea mate ‘i ‘Amelika ki he fakamaau’anga he uike ni ke toe vakai’i pe ‘oku kei totonu ai pe ke tautea mate ia pe ‘ikai.

    Na’e tautea ‘a Siaosi Vanisi hili ia ha’ane tolofi ‘o tamatea’i ‘aki ha toki ‘a e ‘Ofisa Polisi ‘i Nevada he vāhenga Reno ko Sātini George Sullivan lolotonga ‘ene le’o takai ‘a e polisi ni ‘i he’ene kā ngāue.

    Na’e ‘osi poupou pe foki ‘a e Fakamaau’anga Lahi ‘a Nevada ki hono mu’aki tautea ‘o Vanisi ka ‘i he uike kuo ‘osi ne toe fakafoki ai ke hopo’i mo fai ha tu’utu’uni kau ki he pehē pe na’e uesia ko ā hono ‘uluaki hopo’i ia he ngāue ‘a ‘ene loea ne tokoni’i lolotonga ‘ene hopo tangi.

    ‘Oku pehē ngali ne tōnounou e loea ko ‘eni ne ne fai ‘ene tangi ‘o ‘ikai ke ne fakatotolo’i ‘a e fakamo’oni ne mei hoko ke holoki ai e tautea ‘o Vanisi ‘o hao ai mei he tu’utu’uni ‘a e kau sula ke tautea mate.

    Ko e me’a ne hoko ia ko e tu’utu’uni ‘a e kau loea ne nau ‘uluaki fai ‘ene hopo ke nau fakafekiki’i na’e ‘i ai e faingata’a faka’atamai ‘o Vanisi, ka ne ‘ikai tali ia ‘e he fakamaau’anga mā’olunga.

    Kuo nau tu’utu’uni atu leva ‘eni ki he fakamaau’anga fakavahe ke vakai’i pe na’e ‘ilo ‘e he kau fale’i fakalao na’e ‘i ai e faingamalie peheni ke tu’unga ai ha fakasi’isi’i tautea ‘o Vanisi pea na’a kuo ‘i ai ‘eni ha faingamalie ‘i he ‘uhinga ko ia, ke haofaki ‘ene mo’ui.

    Ka kuo laka hake ‘i he lau tōseni ‘a hono ‘ikai tali ‘o na ‘e he Fakamaau’anga Lahi ‘a e ngaahi fakafekiki’i ‘o e tautea ‘o Vanisi ‘o kau ai ‘a e kikihi ‘o pehē na’e tonu ke faka’atā ke tali na’a ne puke faka’atamai.

    ‘I he faka’uhinga ‘a e fakamaau’anga ne nau pehe na’e ‘ikai ha tu’unga hē faka’atamai ia ‘o Vanisi ke pehē na’e ‘ikai lava ke ne ‘ilo pe mahino’i e me’a na’a ne fai.

    Ne tuhu e tu’utu’uni fakamaau’anga ki mu’a ko ia ki he pehē na’e toutou fakahā ‘e Vanisi ki ha ni’ihi kehe ‘ene palani ke tāmate’i ha `ōfisa polisi mo kaiha’asi ‘ene me’atau mo ‘ene letioo, pea te ne toi’i e taha fuahia he po’uli pea te ne hola mei Nevada, ki mu’a pea toki puke ia ‘i Utah.

    Ko ia ai ne pehē ‘e he fakamaau’anga ko e ngaahi ngāue eni ne mahino mei ai ‘a hono tali ‘e Vanisi ‘a e hala ‘ene ngāue na’e fai pea na’e tonu pe ‘a e kau loea ‘i hono fuofua tautea ia ‘o ‘ikai ke nau toe hoko atu hono kikihi’i e pehe na’e vale, ko e lau ia ‘a e fakamaau’anga.