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15 July 2019

Crime of Manslaughter: One Year Imprisonment Suspended for Two Years

Image of the East Timor District Court's Coat of Arms East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin Warren L. Wright
There follows an extract of a notable case from the JSMP Summary of the trial process at the Baucau District Court for the month of March 2019. 
Case No.                                 : 0016/18.MNSTR
Composition of the Court       : Single Judge
Judge                                       : Ersilia de Jesus
Prosecutor                               : Remizia de Fatima da Silva
Public Defender                      : Sidonio M. Sarmento
Decision                                  : 1 year in prison, suspended for 2 years, and civil compensation of US$3,000

On 8 March 2019 the Baucau District Court conducted a hearing to announce its decision in a case of manslaughter involving the defendant Teofilio Pinto and the victim Lourenco Soares that allegedly occurred in Manatuto District.

Charges of the public prosecutor

The public prosecutor alleged that on 18 May 2018, at 10am, the defendant was driving a yellow truck bearing the number plate 51-458 Tls from Dili to Uatulari at normal speed. The defendant was taking his wife and a child. When they arrived in Manatuto near the salt production area, the victim was crossing the road. The defendant sounded the horn and yelled out but the truck struck the victim who fell down and was shaking on the road. The defendant got out of the truck and jumped over the victim's body seven times so the victim wouldn't die, but the victim actually died.

When he saw that the victim was dead, the defendant, together with his wife and child, got on a bus heading from Baucau to Dili to hand himself over to the Manatuto police but on the way they met with the police so the defendant handed himself over to the police who took him to the Manatuto police station.

The defendant made an agreement with the family of the victim in relation to this incident, that firstly the defendant would give US$2,000 and a pig to the victim's family. Then for the funeral ceremony and the 6 month anniversary of the death, the defendant would give another US$1,500 and a buffalo. Meanwhile, for the ceremony to end the mourning period, the defendant would give another US$1,500 and a pig.

The public prosecutor alleged that the defendant violated Article 140 of the Penal Code on manslaughter that carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison or a fine.

Presentation of evidence

During the trial the defendant fully confessed to all of the facts in the indictment and stated that the defendant was driving the vehicle at 70 kilometres per hour and when the front of the car was level with the victim the victim suddenly started crossing the road and the defendant was startled. For this reason the defendant swerved and the vehicle slid into a gutter and the defendant saw the victim fall on the road. In relation to the agreement between the defendant and the victim's family, the defendant stated that he gave US$2,000 and a pig. The defendant was supposed to give a buffalo at the ceremony to end the mourning period but he decided not to do so because based on the agreement if the defendant complied with the conditions the case would not be taken to court, but in reality this case ended up at the court. In addition, the defendant's truck, that he needs to make a living, is still at the Manatuto Police Station.

The witness Julia Soares, who is the victim's wife, testified that she was at home and the victim left to check on his buffalo. Suddenly she heard a vehicle strike the victim killing him instantly. When the witness and other families arrived at the scene they saw that the victim was already dead and his head was split open and broken hip. Meanwhile, the witness Filomena da Silva, who is the defendant's wife, chose the right to remain silent.

Final recommendations

The public prosecutor stated that the defendant confessed to all of the facts in the indictment and stated that the defendant was driving the vehicle at a higher speed than normal. In addition, there were no unfavourable conditions because it was nice weather and the road was in good condition. Therefore, he requested for the court to impose a suspended sentence against the defendant and to order the defendant to pay civil compensation based on his economic capacity.

The public defender requested for the court to apply a more lenient sentence against the defendant, and to return the vehicle to the defendant and for the court to use its discretion to determine civil compensation. The public defender stated that the defendant confessed to all of the facts in the indictment, regretted his actions, and stated that nobody wanted the accident to occur, and the defendant had been driving the vehicle for a long time and this was his first accident and the defendant was a first time offender.

Decision

After evaluating all of the facts, the court found that the defendant committed the crime based on the facts set out in the indictment. Based on the facts that were proven and all of the mitigating circumstances, namely that the defendant confessed the alleged facts, regretted his actions, has reconciled with the family of the victim, was a first time offender, the court concluded the matter and imposed a prison sentence of one year against the defendant, suspended for one year, and ordered him to pay civil compensation of US$3,000 to the victim (the remaining amount that the defendant has not yet paid to the family of the victim) as well as court costs of US$20. The court also decided to return the defendant's vehicle.

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