(o) Assassination Plot: Who were the Assessors?

With so much depending on the public and overseas reception of the guilty verdict against the eight men charged with plotting to assassinate Bainimarama, it is important readers know more about the Assessors who brought down this verdict. 
Some 600 people applied to serve on a panel of assessors. The panel is approved yearly by the Chief Justice  and the list is gazetted. The assessors in the Assassination plot trial were picked by the High Court Registry and their names were given to lawyers on both sides who had the right to object. Where there are objections they are normally replaced. In this case defence and prosecution agreed to each of the assessors. For further information, look at the Criminal Procedure Decree on assessors and the right of objection.

Related items

New Zealand "utterly rejects" the claim by one of the defendants that it was in any way involved in the assassination plot.

Defence lawyers have applied for non-custodial sentences for all  eight to be sentenced on varied grounds: minimal involvement, good character, first offenders, second chance, age, sole breadwinner, ill health, treatment while in detention, and entrapment (the argument that they were talked into the plot by undercover soldier Kuli).

Ballu Khan, although deeply implicated, cannot be charged because  he won  a permanent stay of proceedings against him. Khan now lives in Auckland.

Justice Madigan will announce sentences at 3:30 pm today.


joe said…
Ballu won the permanent stay because he was wronfully detained then. It is now clear that he was rightfully detained, so, that judgement should be overturned. It seems that ballu was the would be financier and arms supplier for the assassination plot thru NZ, which is where clause 48 of Justice Madigan's summation to the assessors comes in. As I said earlier, Rt Inoke should turn approover and dob the big fishes in, it was a big call on his part to say that he had the backing of foreign countries. I think ballu got away thru the back door. The pawns will surely get what they deserve, I hope the Rooks and Knights are exposed soon with ballu.
joe said…
In their mitigation yesterday, the eight men asked for non-custodial sentences, saying they had played a minimal part in the meetings that were conducted. So, do you care to tell us who the major players were?
Jimi said…
NZ "rejects the charges"? But the Judge Paul Madigan clearly implicates them, in his summation, which is now a legal record for ever! Whose right?
Wondering... said…
Dear contributors, let's not forget that handing down sentences is one thing (and that's where the judiciary responsibility ends, and the jurisdiction of the Prison's Commissioner begins) - what the Prison's Department decides to do with these prisoners is another matter.

Maybe these convicted persons will be put into the Yellwo Ribbon project, be "re-trained" to enter society, and be released and even given jobs in Government, like Peniasi Kunatuba, the man convicted of scoundering millions of taxpayers dollars. He now has a cushy Government job, after woo-ing Prison Officials by doing well under the Yellow Ribbon Project - and all the man-hours, money and prosecutors time spent on sending him to gaol amounted to nothing.

Or maybe some or all these the 8 convicted persons will be released under Compulsory Supervision Order (and another simmilar criteria used previously), like Francis Kean, Rt Jope Seniloli and others. And these individuals were convicted of worse crimes - manslaughter and treason!

Whether or not you support the current administration or don't, you've got to admit that the Prison Department (before and after the coup) has always operated on its own accord, unbothered by the decision of judges. The Fiji Times had a great editorial headline when critizing the decision to release Rt Jope Seniloli under CSO... "When the Jailer becomes Judge".

I just home the Prisons Department respects the decision of the court, now and always.
observer said…
Would you allow me to put this issue appointment/selection of assessors in a better perspective.

1. In Fiji, after the High Court Registry SELECTS the names of the assessors from that so-called list of 600 names, the names are then TYPED onto a letter and sent to both counsel (prosecution and defence) to see if their have any objection to the assessors named on that letter.

2. In Fiji, the verdict of each assessor is NOT legally binding on the judge presiding over the trial. Reason of course is that the assessors deliberate on the facts alone and reach their verdict based on that ALONE, 'facts' that are of course presented to them in Court.

3.The presiding judge, however and as expected does both, i.e. adjudicates on both fact and law.

4. The presiding judge Madigan is known not to overturn unanimous verdicts of assessors.

5. Hence, when you talk about assessors selection in FIJI - please Do Not Ever Confuse it with a "full and proper selection" of assessors or jury that takes place in competent jurisdictions.

4. There, the appointment/selection process is much more elaborate and takes place in a full day or two HEARING that is termed a voire dire, where counsel from both sides have with them at the voire dire a comprehensive Q&A that has been completed by each prospective assessor and can raise objection to any prospective juror.

4. Furthermore, both counsel are given a number of preemptory strikes against each prospective juror and can exclude them without having to show cause/reason/basis but once they exhaust the nbr of strikes they're given, then they would hve to show cause/establish a basis as to why a prospective juror should be excluded from the panel. It's debated/ventilated right there and then and the judge then makes a ruling/decision on whether that particular juror is excluded or not.

5. Fiji has NOTHING close to that kind of comprehensive, transparent, assessor/jury selection process that blogger Walsh tried to allude to in "FIJI TODAY" blog.

6. Btw, when did that Crimes & Procedure Decrees come into effect by the military junta?
Proud fijian said…
Dear observer

Are you saying that the system of choosing assessors in Fiji had an important influence in the outcome of a guilty verdict?

Are you then saying that the assessors were biased against the defendants?
observer said…
Yes, absolutely. Given Fiji's situation, anything is possible esp. within a legal system set up by the military junta and its obvious advisors.. why? Did you for one sec honestly think that the junta would let go of that one remaining count of conspiracy to assassinate the junta head?? It had to be a slam dunk verdict, by hook or by crook..lol.
Proud Fijian said…
Dear Observer

1. I am no legal eagle but your public comments of the court ruling and that the assessors were biased and prejudicial are bordering on contempt (especially behind a pseudonym).

If you're counsel for the defentants or intimately in contact with them then i suggest waiting for the appeal (and the grounds).

2. As to whether trial by jury is better I agree. The assessor system is old and introduced only for trials where either the defendant or victim was a native. Jury trials were for "white". This was to protect the locals from "white" jurors who do not understand the natives. Thus assessors were used and their opinions could be oveturned by the judge.
MJ said…
Observer, I am no lawer, but I think you are describing only the US legal system. Other western democracies often diffferent rules for juries and different legal systems. France I believe has no juries at all. So the French legal system flawed? Just because the Fiji system is not exactly the same as the US does not mean that they did not get a transparent or fair trial. I mean have a look at the defence. Basically there was very little because they were caught red handed.

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