23 Sep 2010

Defence lawyer hails jury in murder trial

8:31 pm on 23 September 2010

A defence lawyer says a Napier jury made a very brave and correct decision in finding his client not guilty of murder.

The accused admitted smashing his way into his neighbour's house and killing a man with four shots from a rifle.

The jury on Wednesday also decided against returning a verdict of manslaughter.

It found Wilson Apatu, 40, not guilty of murdering Layden Rameka, 35, and not guilty of attempting to murder one of his children.

The Crown argued he planned to kill Mr Rameka after being badly beaten in a fight several hours before the shooting.

Apatu's lawyer Russell Fairbrother says his client is a decent man who is very remorseful about what happened. He says Apatu was as surprised as anyone else that the gun went off.

At the start of the 10-day trial, Mr Fairbrother said that his client accepted that he caused Mr Rameka's death. He argued a partial defence of provocation.

Apatu has been remanded in custody on other charges. Before his trial he pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking a motor vehicle at knifepoint shortly after the shootings.

On Thursday, Justice Millar asked for a pre-sentence report and a doctor's report on Apatu's state of health before the sentencing in October.