Medical expert backs alleged killer's testimony

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A forensic pathologist has testified that alleged killer Tamehana Huata's explanation of the injuries that caused the death of his stepson was not an unreasonable possibility. Photo/Warren Buckland.
A forensic pathologist has testified that alleged killer Tamehana Huata's explanation of the injuries that caused the death of his stepson was not an unreasonable possibility. Photo/Warren Buckland.

A jury trial at High Court in Napier yesterday heard an expert witness offer forensic opinion that contrasted to that of the prosecution in the case of a man accused of killing his 2-year-old stepson.

Tamehana Huata, 19, has been charged with the manslaughter and injuring with intent to injure Matiu Wereta at his Flaxmere home in October 2015.

Huata's defence lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, called pathologist Dr Fintan Garavan of Florida to the stand yesterday after requesting a break on Tuesday while they awaited Mr Garavan's arrival.

The prosecution's evidence presented the previous week was that the serious head injuries which lead to the death of Matiu were caused by multiple blows to the head.

Emergency services were called to the home to find Matiu unconscious with numerous marks on his body and a serious head injury.

He died in Hawke's Bay Hospital as a result of the head injury two days later.

When the defence opened its case on Monday the jury was told Matiu's injuries were caused by a hyperactive child who catapulted into a small brick wall after accidentally tripping on a towel.

Yesterday Dr Garavan testified to the possibility of this scenario; concluding in a report that it was not an unreasonable possibility. That scenario included specific factors, including the boy having wet feet, running when he came into contact with a lino surface, and sustaining a subdural haematoma from a combination of hitting the brick wall and proceeding to fall down two steps.

Upon cross-examination yesterday crown prosecutor Steve Manning put to Dr Garavan that he did not consider that Huata had slapped the boy, an admission he made to police, in his report.

"I did not think much of it," Dr Garavan said.

Prosecution earlier called its own expert witness, neuropathologist Professor Colin Smith.
Mr Manning referred to Professor Smith's statement that if the defence's theory was correct it would be the first of its kind; with current medical literature holding no idea of such a fatal brain injury being caused in a home without circumstances such as falling out of a tree.

Professor Smith had previously said a scenario in which Matiu had accidentally fallen into a wall was "highly unlikely", to which Dr Garavan yesterday highlighted that being highly unlikely does not mean it's not possible.

When opening its case at the start of last week the prosecution said Matiu's injuries were more akin to those of someone involved in a serious car crash.
The jury is expected to hear closing arguments today.

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