Court of Appeal upholds gang shooting convictions
An appeal by Black Power members to have convictions stemming from a 2015 Rotorua gang shooting overturned by the Court of Appeal has failed.
The trial, of eight people including the three who were convicted and appealed, involved attempts to bribe and intimidate jurors.
Jury intimidation was one of the grounds listed for the appeal, which was decided by Justices Raynor Asher, Patricia Courtney and Simon Moore.
George Robert Jolley, Robert Dashwood and Cramer Tana McMeeking, members of the Mangu Kaha chapter of Black Power, were all convicted of participating in an organised criminal group late last year.
Jolley was also convicted of attempted murder and being unlawfully in an enclosed building, Dashwood was convicted of discharging a firearm with reckless disregard for the safety of others, and McMeeking of intentional damage and possession of an offensive weapon.
Jolley was sentenced to 11 years’ jail on the attempted murder charge, Dashwood five years’ and McMeeking three years seven months’ on the criminal group charges. All were given shorter sentences on other convictions to be served concurrently.
The judgment listed seven grounds for appeal, one of which was attempted intimidation of the jury.
Jury members were followed to their cars one day during the second week of the trial and people in the public gallery made “threatening gestures” over two nights.
“One person made a gesture imitating a gun and another tapped his wrist as if tapping a watch,” the judgment said.
After the incidents, Justice Sarah Katz put in place security arrangements for alternative transport for jurors and directed the jury about prejudice that could arise from the incidents.
“I want to emphasise to you that you should not hold what occurred against these eight defendants in any way.
“The defence lawyers have each discussed the matter with their clients and assure me their clients had absolutely no knowledge of the relevant incidents and certainly did not encourage or instigate them in any way.
“I accept these assurances 100 per cent. They are consistent with my own experience of the defendants’ behaviour throughout this trial. As you have seen yourself, their behaviour in this courtroom has been exemplary.”
Several of the defendants, however, later swore at the jury when the verdicts were announced.
Jolley’s lawyer Sam Wimsett argued in the appeal that, taken with other irregularities in the trial, the fairness of the trial was in doubt.
Not mentioned in the appeal was a $5000 bribe offered to one juror to acquit one of the defendants, or bring about a hung jury. The juror reported the approach and was excused from jury duty.
Daralee Veatupu, the former girlfriend of Christopher Jolley, who was also on trial over the incident, pleaded guilty to attempting to influence by threats of bribes or other corrupt means a member of a jury.
She was sentenced to nine months’ home detention over the incident where she went to a juror’s home and offered her $5000 to ensure Jolley was home for Christmas.
Defence counsel also argued in the appeal the jury vetting process in Rotorua was unfair.
McMeeking also appealed on the grounds of negative pre-trial publicity. The judges ruled they were “not satisfied that the report created a real risk of unfairness” to him.
“We have concluded that, although there were some irregularities in this trial, they did not, in themselves, lead to a miscarriage of justice in the sense of creating a real risk that the outcome of the trial was affected,” the judges said.
“We are satisfied that, even viewed cumulatively, the areas that have been the subject of complaint, some with justification, did not result in an unfair trial and did not result in a miscarriage of justice.”