Wright found guilty of killing relative

By Imran Ali

A Far North man has been found guilty of killing one of his relatives.

It took the jury less than six hours to deliver a guilty verdict in the High Court at Whangarei yesterday against Gene Autrey Wright, 32, who was accused of beating Sonny Werahiko Taylor, on July 11, 2011, causing his death.

Wright was charged with manslaughter over the death and the jury of eight women and four men went out to consider its verdict at 11.30am yesterday, returning around 4.20pm to seek clarification on a point of law, before delivering its guilty verdict on Wright at 5.20pm. He has been remanded in custody for sentencing on April 19.

Mr Taylor, who was related to Wright, tried to chop the legs off a pataka - food store - at their Oturu Block Rd farm, north of Kaitaia, on July 10, 2011, and Wright's grandfather, John Wright, struck him with a rake, causing its handle to break twice.

The Crown said an angry Gene Wright drove up to the farm and beat up Mr Taylor the next morning, which resulted in his death.

Earlier yesterday, Justice Sarah Katz told the jurors in her summing up that before deciding on Wright's guilt, they must be sure that he assaulted Mr Taylor, that he was not acting in self-defence and that the assault was the substantial cause of the death.

She cautioned the jury on what constituted evidence and how testimonies were to be used when deliberating on the verdict.

Jurors must separate personal issues from facts and decide on the guilt or otherwise of Wright in an impartial, objective and dispassionate manner, she said.

Justice Katz said the fact that Wright chose to give evidence and call witnesses did not change the onus of proving the charge from the Crown.

Inconsistencies in Wright's statement to police and his evidence in court did not mean that he had lied, she told them.

If the jurors did feel Wright had lied, she said it was important for them to realise people lied for many reasons, such as embarrassment, shame or panic.

Justice Katz said for Wright to be found guilty, the standard to which the Crown had to prove its case was beyond reasonable doubt.

It was not enough to say Wright was probably guilty or that he was very likely to have committed the offence, she said.

If the jurors were left with two conclusions at the end of their deliberations, she said they must not choose between them because that would be tantamount to guesswork.

- Northern Advocate

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