Court of Ap­peal upholds gang shoot­ing con­vic­tions

Rotorua Daily Post - - Local News -

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.”

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