Grace Millane trial – closing arguments

I have tried to avoid a lot of the media detail on the Grace Millane murder trial, but what I had seen made me think it was tending to look like not guilty of murder, but as the defence has claimed, ‘rough sex’ gone badly wrong.

But I read through a summary of the prosecution and defence final arguments in the case yesterday, and that leant me back towards a reasonably possibility of a guilty verdict. There are some aspects that just don’t seem to be accidental, like if someone is being strangled this takes time – several minutes at least – and surely the person putting pressure on another persons throat would notice the victim go limp.

And what is alleged to have happened immediately after death – watching porn, googling Waitakere ranges (where the body ended up being buried) and “hottest fire”, and taking photos of the body (the defence claim there is no proof she ws dead then), don’t fit with the defendant’s claim that they had sex, he had a shower and went to bed and found Millane dead on the floor in the morning.

And then there is the burying of the body and the lying to police.

Stuff have a detailed report on the prosecution and defence final arguments here (read from the Live section bottom to top) – Grace Millane murder trial: Crown and defence sum up the case

Reports from Stuff – Grace Millane murder trial: A ‘compelling case of murder’ or an unforeseen accident?

And: Grace Millane murder trial: Judge to sum up the case

The jury deciding the case of the man accused of murdering Grace Millane will hear a summing up from Justice Simon Moore on Friday.

The jurors will then retire to consider their verdict at the High Court in Auckland.

They have heard closing arguments from the Crown and defence lawyers, as well as weeks of evidence.

It’s difficult to know what the outcome of a trial like this will be from a smattering of media reports only. The jury has heard all the evidence and arguments, and will make decisions based on all of that.

It looks unlikely there will be verdict today or this week.

Murder accused, name suppression and international media

The Grace Millane case has raised the issue of the ineffectiveness of name suppression (non-publication orders) when it only applies to New Zealand media. It has been simple online to find out the name of the person accused of the English tourist’s murder, even without trying.

To clarify the situation – at the first court appearance on Monday the accused person’s lawyer asked for name suppression based on fair trial rights, this was declined by the judge, but the lawyer immediately appealed as he is legally able to do. Under current law this gives the accused 20 days automatic suppression, and the judge will make another decision after arguments for and against have been made.

The police have made it clear what the current situation is:

It would be stupid (as well as illegal) to name the accused, or to aid identification of him in any way. Technically, saying ‘you can find it with Google’ could be deemed an aid to finding out, but it is so obvious a way of discovery that it would be ridiculous to take action.

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler tried to do something practical regarding the law: Name suppression appeals

I have long thought that the 20 working days allowed to appeal a refusal to make a suppression order is too long, when the law requires the court appealed from to make an interim suppression order for that period.

The law did not used to require this. There was no automatic right for interim suppression, which used to be a matter of discretion. A defence lawyer could tell a judge of the intention to appeal, and ask for interim suppression.

The judge might ask: will two days (a week/whatever) be enough to appeal? The lawyer might respond: I’ve a trial tomorrow and Thursday, I’d appreciate if I could have until Friday. And the judge could agree. It didn’t always work. But it also didn’t meant an automatic 20 days.

The new law treats an appeal from a refusal to make a suppression order the same as any other appeal – allowing 20 working days to file the notice of appeal, and automatically extending an interim suppression order.

Usually, delaying filing an appeal will be bad for a defendant (if you wait 20 days to appeal a refusal of bail, that means you’ve spent 4 weeks extra in prison), but this is one time where it doesn’t.

It also unreasonably affects the public and news media who wish to report on matters of public importance, and which a judge has ruled it is unreasonable to prohibit them from doing so. In light of this 20 working days is excessive.

So I have drafted a bill, the Criminal Procedure (Interim Suppression Pending Appeal) Amendment Bill, which would reduce the 20 working days allowed to appeal a refusal to make a suppression order to 5 working days.

If anyone knows an MP whom they think would like to propose it as a member’s bill, feel free to direct them to it, over at the Progressive Bills Wiki.

However the Prime Minister has used Labourese for ‘not interested in addressing this’ by saying “At this time, it’s not part of our agenda.”

NZ Herald:  Name suppression laws not about to change

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government has no plans to change name suppression laws, even though international media have named the man accused of murdering Grace Millane.

This morning Justice Minister Andrew Little criticised British media for naming the accused, who has interim name suppression.

Little said it was potentially jeopardising a fair trial, which could heap more misery on the grieving Millane family.

I think that there is potential for ‘jeopardising a fair trial’ it is unlikely – I think that trials found to have been unfairly  jeopardised are rare (I think Edgeler has said that).

Ardern said she agreed with Little and that name suppression should be adhered to.

Asked if name suppression laws were out of date with global connectivity, Ardern said: “There’s no doubt the environment has changed.”

But the Government was not looking at doing any work on name suppression laws, she said.

“At this time, it’s not part of our agenda.”

So Ardern doesn’t want to fix something that is clearly not working.

If it is something obviously needing modernising because it has become a farce I would have hoped the Government would put it on their agenda.

This is more evidence that the current Ardern led Government can be quite conservative at times, despite claims by Ardern and others that they are ‘progressive’.

Murder, men, shame and blame

The murder of young tourist Grace Millane is terrible, and very sad for her family in particular. Horrendous crimes like murder can impact on many people.

There have been appropriate reactions online, like:

I think that most people would agree with that as some have.

There have also been a noticeable number of different reactions. Like calling on the Government to deal with mental health issues, even going as far as implying blame on the current and past Governments. I think that’s unfair.

Apparently there has been some blaming of the murder victim for her own death – I haven’t seen this but have seen this: “Fuck all of you who are blaming Grace for her own death.” Aand:

I’ve had to go on a blocking spree cos I’ve had so many people tweet me to say she should have been more careful. Women and men alike. It’s as if we’ve regressed a couple of hundred years.

It’s sad that there has been victim blaming. Angry responses to that are understandable, but some go into women versus men territory.

When you argue that women shouldn’t travel alone for fear of violence, you’re arguing that women don’t have the same right to life as men because in effect there are some instances and spaces where women should expect their lives are rendered precarious and meaningless.

Also prevalent is the implication and blaming of all men for murders, and violence generally. There have been many variations to this, including attacks on men for questioning the ‘all men’ blaming. people who have suggested anything like ‘not all men are to blame for the crimes of some’.

And some responses combine things and generalise, like:

Ironically, many of the “What did she expect; she should have been more careful” people are exactly the same ones shouting “ “ the rest of the time.

Men are also effectively blaming all men, or at least all men who say things they disagree with.

To all the guys responding to women’s pain, despair and outrage right now with , please go fuck yourselves. You are part of the problem. We are part of the problem unless we actively confront toxic masculinity and the culture of violence against women.

This troubles me. I don’t feel any responsibility for this crime. I think that ‘all men’ type attacks are likely to be counter-productive, alienating many men who oppose violence, who speak up against violence, who act against violence.

I don’t see how I have any responsibility for a murder in Auckland. Are all Aucklanders responsible in some way? Are all New Zealanders responsible for the safety of tourists?

It’s very sad to hear of the murder of a young tourist, but I also find it sad to see all the blaming and shaming of men generally. I don’t think that will do anything to make tourists or women safer.