Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ZenTiger Manslaughter

Clayton Guilty. I can publish this now.

The case of Clayton Weatherston should be a slam dunk. He brings a knife to the murder. He locks the door. He stabs Sophie Elliot over 200 times. When the knife broke he took the time to get another implement, possibly two. He then mutilates her. So he pleads manslaughter and he makes his case.

The defence will be trying hard to make it look like provocation, and that argument is surely irrelevant given the above. Self defence might be another angle, and one Clayton would be entitled to plead had Sophie actually attacked him. I think the hundreds of stab wounds and mutilation destroys that argument even quicker - so no hope there and not surprising the defence ignored that path.

Really, the only hope the defence has is to confuse the jury, to make them forget the facts. To translate his statements like "[I killed her for] The emotional pain she has caused me over the past year", not as premeditation but as a "reasonable excuse" to end a relationship by killing her. How could it be though? Most people go to the pub for a drink and cry themselves to sleep.

The fact that the defence is even being attempted is understandably outraging many right thinking people. I'm offended by the defence, but I would only get outraged if the judge and jury buy it.

I predict that there will be a move by parliament to change the law to remove a "loophole" where provocation is used as a defence. To get a handful of cases where an act of passion, in the heat of the moment, leads to murder. It basically means that we don't trust our judges and juries to apply judgment to a case, to weigh the facts and rule accordingly.

In some cases, provocation may actually be a reasonable argument. Battered wives can quite often reasonably argue provocation as months or years of abuse take their toll. We diminish the opportunity for justice when we remove the human element of weighing up complex evidence and deciding. It's a noble thought, but can have unfair consequences. Maybe not in this case, but in the next one that comes along.

The parallels with the removal of Section 59 are interesting. A handful of cases where some parent or guardian argue "reasonable force" after being accused of beating their child and the judge agreed. This is where we expect a judge to review medical evidence and without the emotion, weigh up what is in the best interests of the child.

For example, in one of those cases, a riding crop was used but left no medical evidence of a beating - it was a CYFS worker who imagined the riding crop being used in the worst way imaginable. It was CYFS who removed the kid from home, and even when the judge ruled "not guilty" kept the kid away from his home under powers that enable them to ignore court rulings. Was this in the best interests of the child? Apparently not because the child tried to escape foster care and run home. You can't run from the State. Last I heard, he was given medication to control his ingratitude for being "rescued".

So the result was for Sue Bradford to selectively quote from a few cases, without presenting all the facts, and using words like "horsewhip" for riding crop and letting people's imaginations do the rest. And now physical discipline is explicitly illegal because the State doesn't trust parents with discernment. The default is guilty, and prove otherwise.

And so it will likely go with Clayton Weatherston and his defence of provocation. A handful of cases will emerge that will justify more cases being brought before a court for murder, plain and simple. But life isn't so simple. Things are not always black and white.

Well, except for the case of Clayton Weatherston.

Definitions of Manslaughter

# homicide without malice aforethought

# Manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of a human being, in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder.

# An act of killing a human being unlawfully, but not wilfully (as opposed to murder)

# An unlawful killing without premeditation or malice. It can be voluntary or involuntary, depending upon the circumstances attending the killing.

# The killing of a person without intention, premeditation, or malice aforethought.

# The deliberate killing of a person without premeditation (or the other circumstances of murder) is manslaughter for which the maximum sentence is ...

# is a criminal variation of homicide that normally carries a lesser sentence than murder, due to its lack of malicious intent.

# The unlawful killing of a human being without premeditation, which may have been committed out of recklessness, extreme emotional disturbance, or ...

# is the killing of a human being, but without the type of intent required for murder. Murder can be reduced to manslaughter if the crime was committed "in the heat of passion", meaning that the person who caused a death was provoked in a manner that the law recognizes as a mitigating factor. ...

# Killing of a person without the element of intention necessary to constitute murder.

Related Link: Clayton Weatherston

Update: Keeping Stock on a move to end the defense of provocation.

Update: I've just read the Law Commission's document on the case for ending provocation as a partial defence, and it makes some good points, especially given the ability for courts to assign variable length sentences for murder, and therefore able to take better account of the circumstances. A debate worth thrashing out. As I said above though, I'm expecting Weatherston's defence to be rejected - it's one thing to argue it, another to have that argument accepted.

6 comment(s):

ZenTiger said...

Note: I realise the comparison is clumsy, it just happens to be topical at the moment.

And because life isn't always black and white, there may be a good case to make for tightening up the definition of manslaughter - I'd just hope that the end result wasn't even worse legislation and (like smacking) manslaughter banned completely "except for the purposes of self defence" or some such nonsense!

Leonidas said...

I'd be willing to hear him out if He had stabbed her once, but to assert that one could lose control, and stab someone continually for three an a half minutes (an average of one wound/second)....... That dog just don't hunt.

ZenTiger said...

Plus time to change weapons when the knife broke, plus time to carry of the mutilations etc.

The latest news today on this case leaves me with a strong feeling it was totally premeditated. I'll post later.

Leonidas said...

O.k., my knowledge of the nuances of law is minimal, at best, but I was of the understanding that manslaughter was for unforeseen consequences, genuine accidents and momentary lapses of control. So, how can you have a "moment" long enough to do what he did?. You cant, either he planed it or he's a nutbar.

Dave said...

Clayton Guilty. I can publish this now

You could have actually published that the moment he announced his guilty plea.

What you couldnt say was he was guilty of murder.

ZenTiger said...

Did I not give that impression then?

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