The trial of five Black Power gang members which was scheduled to last six weeks has reached its closing stages in little more than half that time.

After Justice Graham Lang's summing up tomorrow, the jury of five men and seven women will be sent to ponder on their verdicts.

On trial in the High Court at Rotorua are Benjamin Biddle, Whitu Taipeti, Codie Taitapanui, Te Reneti Tarau and Taumata Tawhai.

Charges the defendants face are rioting, participating in an organised criminal group, using a firearm against law enforcement officers and recklessly discharging firearms.


Charges of unlawful possession of a firearm against Biddle, Taipeti and Tawhai have also been dismissed but remain against Taitapanui and Tarau.

A sixth defendant, Stallone Harawira, was discharged before the Crown closed its case after Justice Lang ruled there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charges against him.

The Crown's case centres on a confrontation between the Black Power defendants and what was estimated to be 150 Mongrel Mobsters in a procession to the Whakatāne crematorium where they were to farewell senior Kawerau chapter member Tahu Kingi on January 17 last year.

The jury has heard Whakatāne is regarded by both protagonists as Black Power territory.

Final jury addresses were delivered by the lawyers acting for Tarau and Tawhai this afternoon.

For Tarau, Ron Mansfield opened with a quote from 15th century German theologian Martin Luther: "Do not let someone else's responsibility become your responsibility", telling the jury this was what applied to his client.

He described him as a 22-year-old country boy who'd come to town to see the funeral procession.

He was not a Black Power member but had become caught up in the stoush between the rival factions.


"He was merely a fledgling, fluffing his feathers, chanting, taunting the Mongrel Mob like two teams confronting each other," he maintained.

Tarau did not deny going to the boot of a Black Power member's car, picking up a rifle, however, more importantly, he'd put it back in the boot, leaving it there.

"He told the police he didn't think those patched guys who were far more senior and experienced in life than he was would have the balls to pull the trigger," Mansfield insisted.

He reminded jurors the shooter and two others had admitted the part they played and been dealt with by the justice system.

"Don't let another's offending become Tarau's offending," he urged.

Gene Tomlinson acting for Tawhai claimed the Crown had asked the jury to make guesses that weren't proof beyond reasonable doubt, accusing the prosecution of presenting evidence with holes and missing parts in it.

Tawhai, he said, was the only defendant who belonged to Black Power's Outbacks chapter. In Arawa Rd he was in the Manga Kaha chapter's territory. Tomlinson pointed to expert evidence that the two had different chains of command, indicating this meant Tawhai would not be taking orders from those in another chapter.

At best Tawhai had taunted the Mongrel Mob and, when the guns came out, he was at the back.

"What did he know, what has the Crown proved he knew? Nothing ... Can you be sure what he knew, that he understood what was going to happen? I say no," Tomlinson submitted.

He argued Tawhai was "absolutely" not guilty of rioting and had remained unarmed throughout.

Equally, he was not guilty of the remaining charges he faced.