A teenager who killed another teen by punching him in the head, and then bragged about it in a rap video posted to social media, has failed in his bid to reduce his prison time.
Armani Williams, 18, was jailed for three years after fatally punching 18-year-old Levi Haami at the Countdown car park on Moorhouse Ave, in Christchurch, on December 4, 2021.
Williams, who was 16 at the time, was the passenger in a car driving past Haami.
Haami was urinating on the side of the road and questioned Williams about looking at his private parts.
Williams’ car immediately did a U-turn and entered the car park. Williams got out of the vehicle and verbally abused Haami before “forcefully” punching him to the side of his mouth, causing him to fall backward and hit his head on the concrete.
He also kicked Haami in the leg and “yelled angrily” before leaving the car park. Haami suffered head injuries and died in Christchurch Hospital the following day.
In May last year, Williams pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter, which had been downgraded from murder, in the High Court at Christchurch.
But last month, Armani took his case to the Court of Appeal, arguing the jail term he received was “manifestly excessive”.
He submitted the five-year starting point the sentencing judge adopted was too high and that his youth and background factors deserved higher reductions.
They found that in summarising the facts of the offending, the sentencing judge wrongly described the punch as knocking Haami unconscious, stating it was not possible to be certain of this.
“However, on any view of the offending, it was an unprovoked, sudden and forceful attack to the head by an angry and aggressive assailant who had deliberately sought the victim out,” the decision stated.
While the Court of Appeal acknowledged there were similarities between Williams’ case and others that had lower starting points, the justices found that the offending “had more in common” with cases that warranted a five-year starting point.
“The punch in this case was not moderate. It was powerful. The victim did not stumble backwards but fell back on to hard ground without breaking his fall.
“After the victim fell, Mr Williams did not render assistance but was abusive and left the scene despite appreciating the seriousness of the situation.”
During his appeal, Williams’ lawyer Ethan Huda referred to teen killer Mark Nagel, who was sentenced last month to two years imprisonment with the option to apply for home detention for killing 61-year-old Anthony Kelly with a martial arts-style kick to his head.
He said that in Nagel’s case, it was a group attack against an elderly person, and the judge took a starting point of four-and-a-half years imprisonment.
In Williams’ case, however, the punch was delivered to a young man who was “not frail” and he received a starting point of five years imprisonment.
Huda said his client was 16 at the time of the offending, stating neurological development may not be complete until the age of 25.
He said Williams received a 10 per cent discount for his youth when credit of at least 15 per cent should have been available.
The Court of Appeal accepted Huda’s submission that greater youth discounts had been given in other cases of violent offending but as Williams’ offending involved a degree of premeditation and the fact he was not a first-time offender, further discounts were not warranted.
The Court of Appeal also noted Williams’ rap song that was posted to social media while he was in custody, bragging about Haami’s death.
The decision stated that while another judge may have given Williams a bigger youth discount, this did not equate to an error being made.
The justices were satisfied that the end sentence of three years imprisonment was not manifestly excessive and Williams’ appeal was dismissed.
Emily Moorhouse is a Christchurch-based Open Justice journalist at NZME. She joined NZME in 2022. Before that, she was at the Christchurch Star.