15 Jul 2013

Crown says beating caused fatal heart attack

7:11 pm on 15 July 2013

A High Court jury has been told a severe beating caused a heart attack that eventually killed a Lower Hutt drug dealer.

Desmond Leaf, 31, and Harlem Turi, 32, have pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Michael Mulholland in September last year and an alternative charge of assault. Mr Turi has also pleaded not guilty to a charge of robbing a woman the same day.

The 52-year-old's body was found in the driveway of a Farmer Crescent property in Lower Hutt.

In her opening address at the Wellington High Court on Monday, Crown prosecutor Andrea Ewing said the men visited Mr Mulholland hoping to obtain methamphetamine, but things turned sour when he refused to sell them any.

Ms Ewing said the accused attacked Mr Mulholland, causing significant injuries including a broken nose and eye socket and damage to cartilage in his throat.

She said two pathologists agreed that the stress of the assault was enough to provoke the fatal heart attack.

Man's health scrutinised

But lawyers for the accused said Michael Mulholland's continued use of methampetamine was the cause of his death.

Desmond Leaf's lawyer Stephen Gill said Mr Mulholland had a chronic addiction to the drug, which had caused him to suffer an earlier heart attack in 2004.

Mr Gill said after Mr Mulholland was hit, he had an altercation with people at a nearby address, became very agitated and suffered the fatal heart attack. Mr Gill said his client had nothing to do with that.

Harlem Turi's lawyer Christopher Stephenson told the court that Mr Mulholland was at risk of sudden death from another heart attack at any time and it was legally incorrect to suggest that the beating, at a different place to where he died, contributed to his death.

Mr Stephenson said a pathologist was likely to give evidence for the defence to counter evidence from two Crown pathologists.

A jury of seven men and five women has been chosen to hear the trial, expected to last for two weeks.