Jury retires in Opotiki murder trial

A decision is yet to be made by the jury and the trial on the murder charge proceeds this afternoon.

The jury in the murder trial of Opotiki woman Marie Harlick has retired this afternoon, to make their decision on the fate of the murder-accused, Robert Hohua.

Hohua, 36, is charged with the murder of Marie Rose Harlick at an address in Wellington Street on November 22.

Marie died following a 20 minute assault in which Hohua punched, kicked and stomped her, with the sounds reverberating through the house and alerting neighbours, who called police.

Hohua has pleaded not guilty to murder, but admits killing her.

Over the past week the court has heard the evidence of witnesses including neighbours at the scene, medical experts and detectives.

They have heard the Crown address alongside the defence provided by Gene Tomlinson.

In her summing up, Justice Anne urged the jury of six men and six women to come to a unanimous decision.

“It's either murder or manslaughter,” says Justice Anne.

“If you cannot come to a unanimous decision, we go into a majority decision and even then 11 members of the jury still have to reach the same conclusion.

“The main point is, you must be sure beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill Ms Harlick.”

Justice Hinton has told the jury that Hohua has an ‘absolute right' not to give evidence in the court and they should not hold this decision against him.

Similarly the jury was also asked not to be influenced by two lies Hohua told in the case including comments he made to police at the scene where he told them no one was in the house, and another where he said Marie spoke to him as he was washing blood from her.

In summing up the evidence Justice Anne raised key points for the Crown case led by Aaron Perkins QC and prosecutor for the Crown Richard Jenson.

The first point is the nature and extent of the assault.

The Crown says that the assault occurred at a level which is very high and notes Marie was not very big.

The prosecution speaks of two blows in which Hohua used a fist/s, and the action of stomping of a foot/feet and acknowledge Hohua admitting to punching and kicking Anne, in part to her head.

They note the evidence of expert witnesses which determines 19 injuries found on Harlick's body and an estimate of eight to ten blows being the cause of this.

They note the defendant's estimate of nine blows as being consistent with this evidence.

Secondly, Justice Anne raised another key point made by Crown in relation to the length of the assault.

“The defendant estimates the assault to have been around 20 minutes long, which is consistent with other witnesses.”

They note the assault as not being a fleeting moment of rage, and given the amount of detail given in his interview with detectives, the assault did not occur in a situation where he had no recollection.

The Crown also mentions comments heard by witnesses where neighbours heard comments along the lines of ‘get up or I'll kill you' and Hohua's behaviour after the attack.

“He didn't attempt to get help from neighbours, told police no one was at home and he was ‘acting' not distressed.”

In her summing up Justice Anne also referred to the defence by counsel Gene Tomlinson, who says the defendant: “accepts he's done a terrible thing and accepts he has committed an unrightable wrong.”

“He accepts he intended to injure Ms Harlick, but not to kill and he accepts manslaughter.”

Defence maintains the defendant was in a ‘blind fury' did not realise what he was doing.

A moment where Hohua was found crying alone in the shower by a police officer, when he was not expecting anyone to be around, shows he is truly remorseful, says Gene.

He also noted how all of the evidence provided by the defendant in his interview with police was consistent with scientific evidence provided later.

While evidence from medical experts has noted that Marie's death could have been caused by facial injuries, the reality is that a blow to her stomach is what killed her, a death, which unless the victim is unconscious, semi-unconscious or drunk, is not common.

Hohua has made death threats before and while unfortunate, it is not uncommon in today's society for people to make these types of comments, says Gene.

Hohua genuinely thought Anne was going to sleep when she was on the bed, which medical experts agree is a reasonable observation based on her injuries, says Gene.

The jury retired about 10.30am to consider its verdict.


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