17 Jun 2011

Weatherston loses appeal against murder conviction

8:37 pm on 17 June 2011

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Clayton Weatherston over his conviction for the murder of Dunedin woman Sophie Elliott.

Weatherston stabbed his 22-year-old former girlfriend more than 200 times in January 2008.

During his trial, Weatherston based his argument on the defence of provocation, arguing he should be found guilty only of manslaughter.

The jury rejected that, and in July 2009 found him guilty of murder.

The defence of provocation was later abolished by Parliament.

Weatherston's lawyer, Robert Lithgow QC, submitted on appeal that media statements at the time of the trial undermined the defence of provocation to the extent that the trial should have been aborted.

Other grounds of appeal related to Justice Potter's summing up and directions to the jury, and alleged misconduct by the prosecutor at trial.

The use of photographs of Ms Elliott's wounds as exhibits in the trial was also challenged.

The Court of Appeal dismissed all grounds of appeal. It found the trial judge repeatedly warned the jury to ignore media coverage and allowed them no room to express an opinion on the defence of provocation.

The court praised the work of Weatherston's defence team during the High Court trial, saying they had been subjected to unjustified verbal abuse by some members of the public.

Father comments

Sophie Elliott's father says he is gratified Weatherston failed to get his guilty verdict overturned.

Gil Elliott says the trial was completely fair and Weatherston's legal team did everything they could for him.

"He had the fairest trial out because those two really did their best to try to get his conviction reduced from a possible murder to a manslaughter. We were never particularly pleased of course that he was able to appeal, but that's the law, and we never thought that his appeal was sound."

Mr Elliott says the judge handled the case superbly.