An Auckland man on trial for murdering his partner's
2-year-old is accused of hitting the little girl in the
stomach hard enough to split an internal organ.
This caused the infection that killed her, the High Court at
Auckland heard today.
Michael Joseph Martin, 25, denies killing Leilani Mary-Jane
Lotonu'u at their Manurewa home on June 9, 2012.
He also pleaded not guilty to a charge of child neglect for
failing to provide Leilani with medical assistance.
In her opening statement to the jury, Crown prosecutor
Christine Gordon, QC, said Leilani was pronounced dead
shortly before 6am on June 10, 2012 when paramedics were
unable to save her.
The day before, Martin and Leilani's mother Amy Lorigan were
looking after the little girl. When Ms Lorigan went out for
about an hour, Leilani was left at home with Martin.
Ms Lorigan returned to find her daughter "noticeably unwell"
and vomiting throughout the afternoon and evening. It was
during Ms Lorigan's absence that Martin administered a
"violent assault", Ms Gordon said.
Ms Gordon said when Ms Lorigan arrived home Martin told her
he couldn't be with her any more. He did not mention what he
later told police that Leilani had fallen of a chair.
The Crown says this was a lie.
Expert evidence would suggest the little girl was in great
pain but would have survived if she received prompt
treatment, Ms Gordon said.
The Crown would also produce evidence indicating Martin
struggled to look after Leilani because he wasn't her father.
But Martin had originally "misled" police when he said:
"We're all one family, that's what I say," and had described
Leilani as "our beautiful girl". He didn't say anything about
telling Ms Lorigan their relationship was over.
Witnesses were expected to talk about Leilani appearing to be
scared of Martin at times, while Ms Lorigan would say she did
not cause her daughter's fatal injuries, Ms Gordon said.
"Amy Lorigan loved her daughter Leilani. The accused,
however, struggled to accept a child that wasn't his and was
going to leave."
Martin and Ms Lorigan had another daughter together and had
been in a relationship since the beginning of 2011.
Defence lawyer Lorraine Smith will make her opening statement
The trial, before Justice Graham Lang, is expected to last
about three weeks. The Crown will call 35 witnesses.