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Judge: "Character" and "credibility" are at issue

Thu 21 Apr 2016 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Ihaia Gillman-Harris Jurors must assess the credibility of evidence given by the only defendant to take the stand in the trial of two young men charged with murdering gay man Ihaia Gillman-Harris, but they must also assess Gillman-Harris's character, the jury has been told. In the final stages of his summing up and guidance for the Jury, Justice Toogood has pointed out that as Gillman-Harris is dead and co-accused Beauen Wallace-Loretz has elected not to give evidence the jury must substantially rely on Leonard Nattrass-Bergquist's account of what happened during a violent confrontation in an Epsom motel unit on December 27, 2014. The crown says the pair planned and carried out a violent robbery but the defense says the violence was self-defence after an aggressive sexual attack by Gillman-Harris. "If you [believe] that Mr Nattrass-Bergquist is lying to you then the crown case is much stronger, especially if there is evidence to support it," advised Justice Toogood after first clarifying to the jury how they should approach consideration of expert evidence presented by a pathologist and a psychiatrist. "You have to assess his credibility, what sort of person he is, how did he seem to you in the witness box... did he appear to be telling the truth or was he evasive and forgetful on important issues," said Justice Toogood who also cautioned against putting "too much weight on delivery or appearance" in an unfamiliar setting. And "you have to assess Mr Gillman-Harris's character" as submitted by lawyers in court. "I have criticised him myself for the way he cruised around looking for young boys and men," Justice Toogood said. Despite the accuseds' texting phrases to each other such as "I hate faggots" in the lead up to Gillman-Harris's death "the crown does not suggest it's a hate crime." That Mr Gillman-Harris was gay is not disputed" and the jury might harbour thoughts such as "he had it coming to him" or be swayed by the way the defendants spoke of him, but those aspects of the case are "just background noise." The judge is expected to finish his summing up, which began yesterday afternoon, early this afternoon after which the jury will retire to deliberate on their verdict. Nattrass-Bergquist and Wallace-Loretz each face charges of murder, aggravated robbery and theft of Gillman-Harris's car.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 21st April 2016 - 1:57pm

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