A man who decided to represent himself at trial on charges he killed a cyclist in a hit-and-run crash while fleeing police in a stolen car has been found guilty.
The 27-year-old, who continues to have name suppression, put up little fight last week as he sat silently through the judge-alone trial. His only words to Auckland District Court Judge Anna Skellern while representing himself was to confirm he didn’t wish to call any witnesses.
In her reserved judgement, which she read from the bench, Judge Skellern acknowledged it was not the defendant’s burden to prove his innocence. But she also pointed to eye-witness and “compelling scientific evidence” linking him to the car that went mostly uncontested during the trial.
“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that [the defendant] was the driver at the time,” she said. “I find each of the eye-witnesses to be honest, reliable and credible.”
Police testified they were trying to locate the man on an unrelated matter in November 2019 when he sped off from a Massey home in a burgundy Subaru station wagon — driving erratically at speeds of up to 90km/h through the West Auckland neighbourhood as they pursued him with lights flashing. He crossed over into oncoming traffic while turning onto Don Buck Rd and hit cyclist Jamie Jameson, who was wearing cycling gear and a helmet.
The man then sped off without slowing down, police said.
Jameson, a 39-year-old father and husband, died a week later from head injuries suffered in the crash. The courtroom was filled again today with Jameson’s family and friends, as it had been throughout the trial.
The defendant is now convicted of failure to stop for police, failure to stop or ascertain injury after Jameson was hit and recklessly causing the cyclist’s death. He has been remanded to custody to await sentencing in December.
The man was also on trial for receiving stolen property worth more than $1000, with prosecutors contending the car was assessed to be worth $3000. But the judge said the value wasn’t adequately proven. She instead found him guilty of receiving stolen property worth less than $500, explaining that the car had to be worth something even if for scrap metal.
But as for everything else, she said the evidence was clear.
The defendant “very clearly created a situation that was dangerous to other road users”, she said, adding that she found it “entirely implausible” that someone else matching his description was instead behind the wheel.
“I have no doubt at all [he] was aware he had hit Mr Jameson and Mr Jameson was injured,” she added.
In her ruling, Judge Skellern also pointed out that the man fired his lawyer just days before the trial began and opted to represent himself. But he was assisted by stand-by counsel appointed shortly before the trial began and also had help from a communication assistant assigned to help him better understand what each witness was saying. The judge asked the stand-by lawyer to help him through the sentencing process as well, “to the point [the defendant] is willing to have him assist”.
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