Prison lifer helped beaten inmate, jury hears

By -
Add a comment

A jury will today resume considering a verdict in the trial of a Hawke's Bay Prison inmate charged with causing grievous harm in an attack that might have killed a fellow inmate had a convicted murderer not intervened.

Paka Junior Leota, 34, denies taking part in the attack on Jason James Poi, who was paralysed by a brain injury suffered in an assault in Leota's cell in Unit 8 at the prison on the afternoon of March 21, 2015.

Convicted murderer and prison lifer Joseph Sam Samoa, 40, had previously pleaded guilty to the charge.

But it was another lifer, with 20 years in jail behind him and whose name is suppressed, who entered the cell, forced Poi's jaw open to stop him choking, lifted the unconscious him from a pool of blood and carried him to a guard-house - half an hour after the attack started.

The rescuer, who had said he felt guilty for getting Poi into the circumstances the Crown said sparked the attack, continued survival techniques even after the arrival of a nurse.

In a summary yesterday on the fourth day of a trial scheduled for over a week in the High Court in Napier, Justice Denis Clifford told a jury of seven men and five women if they did not agree Leota started the attack in the 12 seconds he was allegedly alone with Poi before Samoa entered the cell, it had to only agree that Leota was a party to the assault Samoa admitted.

Leota did not give evidence and none was called by counsel.

Hastings barrister Bill Calver argued in his closing address CCTV images seen in court did not establish Leota had entered the cell, and there was evidence he was on the phone in another part of the unit at a time of the assault.

Crown prosecutor Steve Manning argued the attack was sparked by Poi's failure to deliver when he was enlisted to help bring drugs and other contraband into the prison.

The plan involved the partners of Leota and Samoa acquiring drugs in Auckland and getting them to Poi's partner in Napier so she and another woman could take the drugs to the prison during a family day where prisoners would have time with partners and children.

But the women were not keen, took fright when they saw vehicles being searched at the prison entrance and the drugs "got thrown out the window" before they drove into the grounds, Mr Manning said.

About 3.30pm, just before families had left the grounds after the event, Leota was said to have led Poi into the cell, from which noises heard from outside were said to have indicated an assault started immediately.

Samoa entered 12 seconds later and similar noises were heard, but according to surveillance, it was not till 28 minutes later that he exited, by which time Poi was unconscious on the floor with the men wondering how to move him and avoid detection, Leota allegedly suggesting dumping him in a shower unit.

The Crown said there had been anger from Leota in a previous recent phone call to his partner in Auckland over delays in getting drugs to him in jail.

The trial was told the unit was locked down after the alarm was raised, which allowed Leota to clean up overnight while alone in his cell, as the jail focused on anothger cell. But luminol testing revealed evidence the assault took place in Cell 6.

For more articles from this region, go to

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 27 May 2017 19:32:02 Processing Time: 733ms