Bay of Plenty Times

Jury fails to reach decision on murder

Ten-hour deliberati­on ends with trial jurors deadlocked

- Sandra Conchie

The two-week trial of a Bay of Plenty man accused of murder has ended in a hung jury. The defendant, who has name suppressio­n, denies murdering Jamin Roemaata Harrison, 30, when he shot him at a property in O¯ manawa, near Tauranga, on January 25, 2021.

The trial began last Monday in the High Court at Rotorua, and the jury began deliberati­ng on Thursday.

The jury deliberate­d for 10 hours before informing Justice Grant Powell they were unable to reach a unanimous or majority verdict.

Around 12.30pm the jury indicated they doubted they would be able to reach a unanimous verdict and Justice Powell issued a majority direction, allowing the jury to reach a verdict if only one member of their number did not agree.

A little over an hour later, the jury indicated a majority verdict could not be reached.

“The only option at this point is to discharge you,” Justice Powell said to the jury.

“I’d like to thank you for your service over the last two weeks.”

The defendant was remanded in custody pending a bail hearing next week.

During the trial, Crown prosecutor Richard Marchant argued the defendant’s actions were an act of “retributio­n” and the deceased posed no threat to the defendant, his partner or anyone else at the address when he was shot at the defendant’s property.

Marchant said the defendant was guilty of “at least manslaught­er”.

The defendant either acted with murderous intent or intended to cause the deceased “very serious harm”, knowing death was likely, and “shot him away”.

Marchant said the force used was “totally unreasonab­le and out of all proportion” to what actually happened that night.

“The Crown says the defendant was angry and seeking retributio­n for what happened earlier.

“The defendant was not under attack, his partner wasn’t under attack and he certainly was not acting in self-defence when he shot Jamin, within three seconds of getting up onto the grass embankment.

“He fired heavy-duty buck-shot down the channel at unarmed man who posed no imminent threat at all . . . You only need to see Jamin’s injuries, this was no terrible accident. The Crown says the defendant is guilty of murder or manslaught­er.”

However, defence lawyer David Niven told the jury his client had been “defending himself and his partner in response to a perceived threat” after they had been seriously assaulted during an earlier home invasion.

Niven said on the day of the shooting, the defendant was suffering the psychologi­cal effects of those serious injuries and the impacts continued. The defendant had been diagnosed by a psychologi­st as suffering from an acute distress disorder as a result of the assault, which led to him ultimately being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the psychiatri­st who gave evidence for the defence agreed with that diagnosis, he said.

Niven put to the jury that what happened on January 25, 2021 and the home invasion assault were “linked”.

The defendant’s evidence was that the perpetrato­rs of the earlier assault had threatened to come back, including telling him to “keep quiet” and not go to the police.

He believed Harrison turning up late at night was in some way connected to the earlier event.

“I suggest to you that this was the trigger that reignited his early trauma and the defendant honestly and genuinely believed Jamin Harrison had a gun and that informed his decision-making about what to do.”

Niven said the defendant “defaulted to thinking” the people in the car had “come to get him”.

“The defendant does not accept he had murderous intent and says he acted to defuse a threat against him and his partner, and had bore no ill-will towards Harrison when he fired at the car, not the person.”

Niven said the defendant’s actions were “in defence of himself and his partner and the force he used in the circumstan­ces, as he believed it to be, were reasonable”.

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