24 Feb 2010

American Samoa leaders' case ends in mistrial

2:05 pm on 24 February 2010

A U.S. Federal District court has cancelled the trial of two high profile American Samoan government officials before the return of a verdict.

Lt. Governor Faoa Aitofele Sunia and Senator Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen were charged with fraud, conspiracy, bribery and obstruction.

Our correspondent, Monica Miller, reports.

"The jurors could not reach an unanimous verdict. The government did try to urge the court to instruct the jurors to try and come up with an unanimous verdict. But the judge weighed both sides and then he said that he's going to declare a mistrial. And the polling of the jurors turned out to be 11 not guilty and one guilty for both defendants. There's a hearing set for next month and I believe that the US government will decide after that hearing whether to retry the case."

The lawyer for American Samoa's Lieutenant Governor says his team is pleased the jury deliberated carefully and paid close attention to the evidence at his client's trial.

Stephen Anthony says the jurors listened to the judge's instructions.

And after nine separate days of deliberations we are pleased that the foreperson told the court that there were eleven votes for not guilty and only one vote for guilty and we think that speaks loudly about the strength of Mr Sunia's defences.

Stephen Anthony.