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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


First Criminal Jury Trial Held In Palau Ends
Defendant found guilty of murder in second degree

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Oct. 30, 2012) – The Palau Judiciary began preparations for jury trials even before the effective date of the Jury Trial Act on January 1, 2010.

The Judiciary submitted its recommendations to a bill pending before the Senate, which became the basis of this Jury Trial Act.

Former Senior Court Counsel, Ashby Pate, drafted those recommendations and the rules and procedures for jury trial as well as jury instructions.

In preparation for the jury trial, the Judiciary also constructed two courtrooms, one in Koror Court and one in Ngerulmud Court. A vehicle and supplies for the exclusive use of the jurors were also purchased. The costs of these necessary preparations totaled $108,199.35.

Then the first criminal jury trial began on September 2, 2012 and ended on October 16, 2012.

In the case of Republic of Palau (ROP) v. Amador Misech a.k.a. Amador Osima, the government charged defendant Amador Misech with three crimes for his alleged role in the hacking death of Virginia Ventura, a Filipina: murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and attempted robbery.

Again, a great deal of work was necessary before the first jury trial began. For example, the Court established trial procedures for the jury-selection process.

From the Palau Voters List, the Office of the Clerk of Courts selected potential jurors and issued a total of 720 jury-duty summonses with questionnaires for the prospective jurors to answer. Of the summonses issued, 304 were executed.

On September 2, 2012, after the Court released a number of prospective jurors for good cause, the Court began the process of selecting eight jurors for trial from a total of 131 remaining potential jurors.

The Court and counsel for the parties questioned the jurors for two and half days, and on September 6, 2012, the Court swore in the eight selected for service at trial---six jurors and two alternates.

After the preliminary jury instructions by the Chief Justice on September 7, 2012, the trial began on September 10, 2012 with two hours of opening statements by counsel.

At trial, the ROP presented testimony from 44 total witnesses before it rested on September 27, 2012.

The defense began its case the next day and presented testimony from four witnesses before it rested on October 2, 2012.

After the close of evidence, counsel for the parties made their closing arguments to the Jury over three days from October 8-10, 2012, during which each side addressed the Jury for nearly seven hours and ROP made a rebuttal argument for an additional six hours.

On October 10, 2012, the Court issued final jury instructions and sent the Jury to deliberate.

The Jury deliberated for three days and reached a unanimous verdict on Tuesday, October 16, 2012, which was read in open court.

The Jury found the defendant not guilty of murder in the first degree and attempted robbery, but it found the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree.

Under the law, the Court determines a sentence after a verdict of guilty by a jury.

The cost of this first jury trial was $18,799.28. This total included $11,782.50 for attorney fees and cost of DNA consultant; $3,800.00 in Juror compensation; $1,196.69 for food and supplies for the Jury; $925.31 for Juror transportation and service of summons; $724.73 in additional compensation to Court employees; and $284.00 for translation services. The Judiciary has expended a total of $126,998.63 on jury trial thus far.

The Court thanked the jurors for their attentive and deliberate service during this trial. The Court also commended Victoria Roe and Brentley Foster for the prosecution and Siegfried Nakamura for the defense for representing their clients ably and professionally.

Lastly, the court commended the clerks and marshals for all the work they did for this jury trial.

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