Farm death: Verdict expected today

By Imran Ali

A Far North man charged with causing the death of one of his relatives is expected to know his fate in the High Court at Whangarei today.

The jury is expected to retire before lunch in the case of Gene Autrey Wright, 32, who is facing a charge of manslaughter after the death of Sonny Werahiko Taylor, in July 11, 2011.

Mr Taylor tried to cut the legs off a pataka - or food store - with a chainsaw at their Oturu Block Rd farm, north of Kaitaia, the night before, and Wright's grandfather John Wright struck him with a rake, causing its handle to break twice.

The Crown alleged an angry Gene Wright beat Mr Taylor at the farm the next morning, which resulted in the victim's death.

Retired professor of forensic pathology James Ferris was the last defence witness yesterday and said it was difficult to say whether Mr Taylor died from injuries received from the rake or those allegedly inflicted on the day he died.

Professor Ferris said the principal injury had been a gradual formation of a large pool of blood that compressed the victim's brain.

Defence lawyer Doug Blaikie said there was some evidence that Mr Taylor was feeling unwell before Wright drove up to the farm.

Professor Ferris said that could be evidence of a developing subdural haematoma, but he could not be sure what caused it.

On whether there was any evidence that the death was as a result of severe beating, he said that possibility was excluded.

Crown prosecutor Bernadette O'Connor told the jury in her closing address that Wright's actions were not in self-defence but that he had wanted to deal with Mr Taylor once and for all.

She said Mr Taylor suffered a number of bruises of up to 9cm on his body but none had been consistent with a rake to the head or scalp.

"There's no evidence that Sonny Taylor fell over and hit his head. The evidence firmly establishes that [Gene Wright] beat Sonny. He got a real beating," she said.

Mr Blaikie said his client acted in self-defence after Mr Taylor was armed with a machete.

Mr Taylor, he submitted, had been jailed in Australia for violence against his partner, he blazed off with his slug gun and not only did he cut the pataka with a chainsaw but made advances towards John Wright and his partner, who were scared for their lives.

Justice Sarah Katz will sum up this morning before the jury retires to consider its verdict.

- Northern Advocate

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