Which case won?

The case for the defence
  • The first shot killed the victim
  • The victim’s death was an accident
  • The defendant could not be guilty of murder, manslaughter or attempted murder for firing the second and third shots because the victim was already dead
  • Firing the second and third shots was an extremely poor decision, but it was not murder
The case for the prosecution
  • Even if the first shot was accidental, when the defendant fired the second and third shots, he believed that the victim was still alive and acted to kill him
  • The offender deserved a significant jail term, as he clearly intended to kill the victim

So, which case won?

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Expert commentary on the court's decision

Jessica MackayLawyer
“The evidence of the pathologist and the forensic scientist did not exclude the possibility that the surviving man had not fired the first shot deliberately.”
What did the jury decide?

The jury found the accused not guilty of murder or manslaughter. However, they did find him guilty of attempted murder.  During the sentencing hearing, the judge said that the jury’s verdict indicated that the members of the jury could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant deliberately caused the victim’s death, but that he had intended to kill the victim when he believed the victim was still alive.

Murder, attempted murder and manslaughter

The Australian laws relating to murder, attempted murder and manslaughter are all state-based. However, in practice there is not a great deal of difference between the laws which cover these crimes in the different Australian territories and states.

Standard of proof required

For a jury to find a defendant guilty, it must be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt”. In this case, the fact that the surviving man shot the victim a further two times with the clear intention to finish him off might suggest that the gun did not go off by accident when the first bullet was fired, as the surviving man claimed.

However, the court considered the evidence of both the pathologist and the forensic scientist who were called by the Crown at trial. This evidence did not exclude the possibility that the surviving man had not fired the first shot deliberately.

The jury’s verdict and the judge’s sentencing

In handing down the sentence, the judge said:

The jury must… have been satisfied that when you fired the second shot you believed that [the victim] was still alive and that you intended to kill him. The firing of the third shot, although not causally relevant to this crime, showed your determination to make sure that [he] was dead. You made the decision to deprive him of any chance of survival. In those circumstances your moral culpability is high, and although this is an unusual attempted murder it is nonetheless a reasonably serious example of the crime.

The judge noted that the case had “an air of unreality” about it, but this did not justify a lower sentence. He jailed the man for eight years, with a non-parole period of five years.

NOTICE: This article is accurate as at the time of publication and does not constitute legal advice. Please see our legal notices page for more information. Information related to coronavirus can be outdated very quickly.
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