A Far North man has been found guilty of causing the death of
one of his relatives.
In the High Court at Whangarei today, Gene Autrey Wright, 32,
was found guilty of the manslaughter of Sonny Werahiko
Taylor, on July 11, 2011.
Wright was related to Mr Taylor, who had tried to chop the
legs off a pataka - or food store - at an Oturu Block Rd
farm, north of Kaitaia, the previous night.
On July 10, 2011, Wright's grandfather John Wright struck Mr
Taylor with a rake - causing its handle to break twice -
after Mr Taylor had taken a chainsaw to the pataka.
The Crown alleged an angry Gene Wright drove up the farm and
beat Mr Taylor up the next morning, which resulted in his
The defence had argued it was possible that injuries from the
rake attack may have caused Mr Taylor's death, and that
Wright should therefore be acquitted.
On the trial's final day of evidence yesterday, retired
professor of forensic pathology James Ferris was called as
the last defence witness. He said it was difficult to say
whether Mr Taylor died from injuries received from the rake
or those allegedly inflicted on the day he died.
Professor Ferris said the principal injury had been a gradual
formation of a large pool of blood that compressed the
Defence lawyer Doug Blaikie said there was some evidence that
Mr Taylor was feeling unwell before Wright drove up to the
Professor Ferris said that could be evidence of a developing
subdural haematoma, but he could not be sure what caused it.
On whether there was any evidence that the death was as a
result of severe beating, he said that possibility was
Crown prosecutor Bernadette O'Connor told the jury in her
closing address that Wright's actions were not in
self-defence but that he had wanted to deal with Mr Taylor
once and for all.
She said Mr Taylor suffered a number of bruises of up to 9cm
on his body but none had been consistent with a rake to the
head or scalp.
"There's no evidence that Sonny Taylor fell over and hit his
head. The evidence firmly establishes that [Gene Wright] beat
Sonny. He got a real beating," she said.
Mr Blaikie said his client acted in self-defence after Mr
Taylor was armed with a machete.
Mr Taylor, he submitted, had been jailed in Australia for
violence against his partner, he blazed off with his slug gun
and not only did he cut the pataka with a chainsaw but made
advances towards John Wright and his partner, who were scared
for their lives.
Justice Sarah Katz summed up this morning before instructing
the jury to retire to consider its verdict.
Wright will be sentenced in Whangarei in April.
- Northern Advocate